The U.S. Navy declared Initial Operational Capability (IOC) of the MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter June 28 clearing the way for fleet operations and training.
The MQ-8 C Fire Scout is a sea-based, vertical lift unmanned system that is designed to provide reconnaissance, situational awareness, and precision targeting support for ground, air and sea forces.
«This milestone is a culmination of several years of hard work and dedication from our joint government and industry team», said Captain Eric Soderberg, MQ-8C Fire Scout program manager. «We are excited to get this enhanced capability out to the fleet».
The MQ-8C Fire Scout variant is an endurance and payload upgrade to its predecessor, the MQ-8B, offering up to twelve hours on station depending on payload, and incorporates the commercial Bell 407 airframe.
The Northrop Grumman-built Fire Scout complements the manned MH-60 helicopter by extending the range and endurance of ship-based operations. It provides unique situational awareness and precision target support for the U.S. Navy.
The MQ-8C Fire Scout has flown over 1,500 hours with more than 700 sorties to date. Over the next few years, Northrop Grumman will continue MQ-8C Fire Scout production deliveries to the U.S. Navy to complete a total of 38 aircraft.
The MQ-8C Fire Scout will be equipped with an upgraded radar that allows for a larger field of view and a range of digital modes including weather detection, air-to-air targeting and a Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI). It will deploy with Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) in fiscal year 2021 while the MQ-8B conducts operations aboard LCS in 5th and 7th Fleets.