POINT MUGU, Calif.,
Oct. 31, 2013
/PRNewswire/ -- Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) and the U.S. Navy successfully completed the first flight of the next-generation MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter at Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, Calif.
Photos accompanying this release can be found here:
the MQ-8C Fire Scout took off and flew for seven minutes in restricted airspace to validate the autonomous control systems. A second flight that took off at
for nine minutes was also flown in a pattern around the airfield, reaching 500 feet altitude.
The aircraft was operated by a ground-based Navy/Northrop Grumman flight test team also located at Naval Base Ventura County.
"First flight is a critical step in maturing the MQ-8C Fire Scout endurance upgrade before using the system operationally next year," said Capt.
, Fire Scout program manager, Naval Air Systems Command. "The systems we've developed to allow Fire Scout to operate from an air-capable ship have already amassed more than 10,000 flight hours with the MQ-8B variant. This system's evolution enhances how unmanned air systems will support maritime commanders."
The MQ-8C Fire Scout is designed to fly twice as long and has three times the payload capacity of the current MQ-8B variant. Based on a larger commercial airframe with additional fuel tanks and an upgraded engine, the MQ-8C will be able to fly up to 12 hours or carry up to 2,600 pounds.
"Operating the MQ-8B Fire Scout from Navy ships has proved extremely successful. During at-sea deployments, operators saw the need for a system that carried the same intelligence-gathering capabilities of the MQ-8B, but fly longer and carry additional payloads," said
, Northrop Grumman's vice president for medium range tactical systems. "Changing out the airframe, installing control systems and avionics, and then conducting a first flight of the system in a year is truly remarkable. I couldn't be more proud of the team."
Currently, the MQ-8B Fire Scout is on its
seventh at-sea deployment supporting antipiracy missions on board Navy frigates. The system has also been used extensively in
since early 2011 to provide airborne surveillance to ground commanders.
Using on-board sensors to capture full-motion video, Fire Scout can identify targets and then distribute the information in real time to various users. This capability allows ship-based commanders to maintain awareness of a specified area or keep an eye on a target of interest for long periods of time.