Northrop Grumman has won a $71 million Navy contract to build six additional next-generation Fire Scout unmanned rotary-wing vehicles, Naval Air Systems Command told USNI News on Tuesday.
The contract will go toward building MQ-8C Fire Scouts based on a Bell 407 helicopter frame. Northrop is currently under contract to 14 MQ-8C scheduled for deployment in 2014, said NAVAIR.
The contract follows an April 2012 $262.3 million award to Northrop for the first eight MQ-8Cs
Though the airframe is markedly different from the original version of Fire Scout, the control scheme, sensors, software and ground control stations are the same, according to Northrop Grumman.
The MQ-8C is based on the Northrop Fire-X system. Fire-X has a planned range of 1227 nautical miles with a maximum speed of 140 kts and a maximum endurance of 15 hours.
In comparison the Fire Scout travels at a maximum speed of 100 kts with a range of 618 nautical miles and an eight-hour endurance time. Fire-X can field a total payload of 3,200 lbs, more than double that of a Fire Scout.
The current version of Fire Scout is in use in Afghanistan providing surveillance and reconnaissance data for area troops since 2011.