Navy gets upgraded Fire Scout UA
SAN DIEGO. Northrop Grumman officials delivered the first upgraded MQ-8 Fire Scout Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) to the Navy this month to prepare for ground and flight testing.
"The endurance upgrade doubles the time on station of the MQ-8 system and will help reduce the workload for the ship's crew by cutting the number of times the crew will need to be in flight quarters," says George Vardoulakis, Northrop Grumman VP of medium range tactical systems. "Ground and flight testing are the next steps in meeting the urgent requirement for maritime Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR). Testing on the Naval Air Systems Command test range provides us with extended air space to conduct and demonstrate long endurance and systems testing in a maritime environment."
The upcoming tests will validate and mature the upgraded UAS for operational use. Initial ground testing will make sure that the systems work properly and can communicate with the ground control station prior to conducting the first flight. The MQ-8 system with the upgraded MQ-8C aircraft will share avionics, software, payloads and ship ancillary equipment with the MQ-8B aircraft. It uses a modified commercially available airframe to give commanders with three times the payload and double the endurance at extended ranges compared to the current MQ-8B variant.
The MQ-8B aircraft currently flies off of Navy frigates and in Afghanistan, where it provides ISR capabilities to maritime and ground commanders. The upgraded MQ-8's first deployment with the MQ-8C Fire Scout aircraft will be next year.