Northrop Grumman Corporation (NOC) has delivered the first operational MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter to the U.S. Navy, reported defense-aerospace.com. The new VTUAV (Vertical Takeoff and landing Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) system will be used by ship-based commanders to improve the Navy’s intelligence-gathering capabilities.
The MQ-8C Fire Scout is a fully autonomous, four-blade, single-engine unmanned helicopter. Like the MQ-8B, it will carry an array of reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition (RSTA) sensors to support warfighters’ demands for enhanced situational awareness.
The new Fire Scout supports both maritime and land-based missions, taking off and landing on aviation-capable warships, and at prepared and unprepared landing zones in proximity to ground troops. It has also been designed to operate with nearly any type of future or current military standards-based control segment, communicating as easily with shipboard controllers using the Navy’s Tactical Control Station as field commanders using the U.S. Army’s universal ground control station.
As you can see from the specifications, the new VTUAV 4,7 ft longer (with blades folded), 1,2 ft taller, 1,6 ft wider and 2850 lbs heavier than the old MQ-8B Fire Scout Vehicle.
The MQ-8C Fire Scout provides the U.S. Navy with an increased range by over 30%, twice the endurance and an increased payload capacity over the existing MQ-8B variant. Under a risk reduction and cost-savings approach, the unmanned systems architecture developed and matured for the MQ-8B is re-used in a Bell 407 helicopter to support a special operations requirement for a ship-based unmanned system, says Northrop Grumman.
The Bell 407 is a mature commercial helicopter with more than 1,000 airframes produced and over 3 million flight hours. Combined with the maturity of Northrop Grumman’s unmanned systems architecture, the MQ-8C Fire Scout uses available technology and equipment to deliver a more capable system to the Navy.
«The test program will run through the summer as we expect these aircraft to be ready for operations by year’s end», said George Vardoulakis, vice president for medium range tactical systems with Northrop Grumman.
The MQ-8C’s first shipboard flight tests aboard the USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109) will be conducted this winter. The Navy will then assess the advanced system for operational use.
NOC is under contract to build 19 MQ-8C Fire Scouts, including two test aircraft. The US Navy plans to purchase 70 aircraft total.
MQ-8B Fire Scout Specifications
Fuselage Length (with Dual Payload Nose) 23.95 ft (7.3 m)
Fuselage Width 6.20 ft (1.9 m)
Fuselage Length (with Blades Folded Forward) 30.03 ft (9.2 m)
Rotor Diameter 27.50 ft (8.4 m)
Height (Top of Tail Antenna) 9.71 ft (2.9 m)
Gross Weight 3,150 lbs (1428.8 kg)
Engine Rolls Royce 250-C20W Turboshaft Engine
Speed 115+ Knots (213 km/h)
Ceiling 20,000 ft (6.1 km)
Total Flight Time with Baseline Payload 8+ Hrs
Total Flight Time with EO/IR + Radar 7+ Hrs
Total Flight Time with Maximum Payload 5+ Hrs
EO/IR/LRF/Mine Detector/Comm Relay/Maritime Radar
MQ-8С Fire Scout Specifications
Length 41.4 ft (12.6 m)
Width 7.8 ft (2.4 m)
Blades Folded Hangar 7.8 x 34.7 x 10.9 ft (2.4 x 10.6 x 3.3 m)
Height 10.9 ft (3.3 m)
Rotor Diameter 35 ft (10.7 m)
Gross Takeoff Weight 6,000 lbs (2721.5 kg)
Engine Rolls-Royce 250-C47B with Full Authority Digital Electronic Control
Speed 140 knots (max) (259 km/h)
Operational Ceiling 17,000 ft (5.1 km)
Maximum Endurance 14 hrs
Maximum Payload (Internal) 1,000 lbs (453,6 kg)
Typical Payload 600 lbs (272 kg) (11 hrs endurance)
Maximum Sling Load 2,650 lbs (1202 kg)