MQ-8B Fire Scout sets stage for MQ-8C after 5,000 flight hours in Afghanistan
WASHINGTON. At the 2013 Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) conference, Northrop Grumman announced MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopter has surpassed 5,000 flight hours in Afghanistan. Since 2011, the MQ-8B Fire Scout has provided airborne surveillance and targeting in support of counter improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and delivered Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) data to forces on the ground.
"Fire Scout's versatility makes it an ideal intelligence-gathering asset for military units on the front line, both on land and at sea," says Captain Patrick Smith, Program Manager at Naval Air Systems Command. "This is a great accomplishment for the entire team, and we have leveraged many lessons learned while we develop a more capable Fire Scout system."
In 28 months of operation, the MQ-8 platform has provided 5,084 flight hours, which have been studied in the development of a new Fire Scout platform. Northrop Grumman is under contract to build 30 MQ-8C Endurance Upgrade Fire Scouts. These unmanned helicopters will be field deployable in 2014, and have twice the endurance and three times the payload capability of the MQ-8B.
"Navy commanders value Fire Scout's capabilities and recognized early on that a larger helicopter would allow the system to fly longer and carry even larger intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance payloads," says George Vardoulakis, Vice President for Medium-range Tactical Systems at Northrop Grumman. "What we've already done with the current system will be carried over to the new Fire Scout."