Navy receives first Operational MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter

SAN DIEGO. Northrop Grumman dropped off the first operational MQ-8C version of the Fire Scout unmanned helicopter to the U.S. Navy. The system will be used by ship-based commanders to improve the Navy's intelligence-gathering capabilities.

The is follows on the existing MQ-8B by using a larger airframe. It can fly almost twice as long and carry three times more intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance () payloads.

"The test program will run through the summer as we expect these aircraft to be ready for operations by year's end," says George Vardoulakis, vice president for medium range tactical systems. The MQ-8C's first ship-board flight tests aboard the USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109) will be conducted this winter. Navy officials will then assess the system for operational use.

Northrop Grumman is under contract to produce 19 MQ-8C Fire Scouts, including two test aircraft. The Navy plans to procure 70 aircraft in total.

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