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Next-Generation Fire Scout Has First Flight

An MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicle takes off from Naval Base Ventura County at Point Mugu on Oct. 31, 2013. US Navy Photo

An MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicle takes off from Naval Base Ventura County at Point Mugu on Oct. 31, 2013. US Navy Photo

The Navy’s next generation rotary-wing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) had its first flight on Thursday at Naval Base Ventura County at Point Mugu, Calif., according to a statement from the service.

The Northrop Grumman MQ-8C Fire Scout had an initial short seven-minute flight to test its control systems and then a second flight that flew a pattern around the airfield reaching a height of 500 feet before landing again.

The MQ-8C is the next step in the Navy’s development of helicopter UAVs for deployment on ships and for special operations forces (SOF) application.

“It is a big accomplishment for the integrated government and industry team to fly this air vehicle for the first time,” Capt. Patrick Smith, Fire Scout program manager at Patuxent River, Md. “MQ-8C will require fewer aircraft [than the MQ-8B] to operate at maximum performance and will meet the U.S. Africa and Special Operation Commands urgent needs requirement.”

In 2012, Northrop won a $262.3 million contract to provide the Navy with the two test vehicles and six destined for operational use. In April, it one a second $71 million award for six additional aircraft for a total of 14.

The MQ-8C is based on the Bell-Textron Bell 407 commercial helicopter, built in Mirabel, Quebec, and extensively modified at a Northrop Grumman facility in Alabama.

The upgrade extends the range and payload of the Fire Scout. MQ-8Bs have a maximum speed of 100 kts with a range of 618 nautical miles and an eight-hour endurance time.

The MQ-8C variant will extend the time in the air to twelve hours, a there-and-back range of about 1,200 nautical miles and the ability to conduct an orbit around a ship of up to 150 nautical miles.

The MQ-8C operates with the same set of ground controls, sensors and 97 percent of the same software as the MQ-8B, according to Northrop.

The Navy wants to deploy the MQ-8C by 2014.

Categories: Aviation, Budget Industry, News & Analysis, Surface Forces, U.S. Navy
Sam LaGrone

About Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He was formerly the U.S. Maritime Correspondent for the Washington D.C. bureau of Jane’s Defence Weekly and Jane’s Navy International. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.