Northrop Grumman’s MQ-8C Fire Scout passes the initial fit check aboard the USS Anchorage

MQ-8C Fire Scout
Fire Scout on USS Anchorage's flight deck (Image: N.Grumman)

Northrop Grumman’s MQ-8C Fire Scout, the U.S. Navy’s only ship-based autonomous helicopter program, passes the initial fit check aboard the USS Anchorage (LPD-23) at Naval Base San Diego demonstrating the aircraft’s suitability for the U.S. Marine Corps’ amphibious warfare mission, the company announced.

MQ-8C Fire Scout, which has integrated the AN/ZPY-8 radar, is expected to reach Initial Operating Capability in this new configuration this summer and begin replacing MQ-8B aircraft on upcoming deployments.

The U.S. Navy, with support from Northrop Grumman Corporation, commenced flight testing of the system equipped with the Leonardo AN/ZPY-8 radar in May 2020. In February 2021, Northrop Grumman and UK-based Ultra have successfully demonstrated the anti-submarine capabilities of a modified, manned Bell 407 (acting as an MQ-8C Fire Scout surrogate) platform with Ultra sonobuoys, receiver and processor to complete an unmanned aircraft system.

mq-8c fire scout
MQ-8C Fire Scout

About MQ-8C Fire Scout:

The MQ-8C Fire Scout is the U.S. Navy’s next-generation autonomous helicopter. The MQ-8C Fire Scout’s airframe is based on the commercial Bell 407, a mature helicopter with more than 1,600 airframes produced and over 4.4 million flight hours. Combined with the maturity of Northrop Grumman’s autonomous systems architecture, Fire Scout meets customer requirements for ship-based and land-based autonomous systems.

It also has the ability to autonomously take off and land on any aviation-capable ship and from prepared and unprepared landing zones. This enhancement significantly increases range and endurance (more than double) and payload capacity (more than triple). The drone has completed developmental testing and is ready to deploy.

There are two Fire Scout variants. The smaller MQ-8B Fire Scout has deployed on multiple frigates and is currently deployed on a Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). It has also deployed to Afghanistan to support counter-improvised explosive device (IED) operations. This system has completed more than 16,600 flight hours over 6,200 sorties. The Navy has integrated a multi-mode maritime radar on the drone and tested an onboard weapons capability, the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS). The MQ-8B Fire Scout has also demonstrated the ability to operate concurrently with other manned aircraft while operating at sea.

Check out Naval Library App to find out the specifications of MQ-8C Fire Scout.

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