Tag Archives: AN/ZPY-8

Operational Deployment

Northrop Grumman Corporation’s MQ-8C Fire Scout, the U.S. Navy’s next generation ship-based autonomous helicopter system deployed operationally December 14, 2021. Deployed with Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 22, Detachment 5 (HSC-22 DET 5) aboard USS Milwaukee (LCS-5), Fire Scout provides greater organic Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Targeting (ISR&T) capabilities for the U.S. Navy.

MQ-8C Fire Scout
An MQ-8C Fire Scout takes off from the flight deck of the USS Milwaukee (LCS 5), January 6, 2022 (Credit: U.S. Navy)

«This is a significant milestone in the MQ-8C Fire Scout program», said Captain Eric Soderberg, U.S. Navy. «The transition from the MQ-8B to the MQ-8C Fire Scout has brought improved sensors and more than doubles the on-station endurance. Advances in Fire Scout’s capabilities further our successful integration of unmanned platforms at sea and the Navy and Marine Corps unmanned campaign plan».

MQ-8C Fire Scout brings increased speed, endurance and payload capacity to maritime operations. The system provides operators 10+ hours of endurance and range of over 1,000 nautical miles/1,151 miles/1,852 km, allowing for adaptable mission sets, including real-time over-the-horizon targeting. When operating with manned aircraft, Fire Scout enables commanders to employ manned assets in a more focused manner.

«Our partnership with the U.S. Navy has been critical in developing Fire Scout’s multi-mission autonomous capabilities which provide greater situational awareness to the joint force», said Lance Eischeid, director, Fire Scout program, Northrop Grumman. «With the ability to operate from a range of surface ships, MQ-8C Fire Scout is a powerful platform that allows the U.S. Navy to increase the detection and tracking of targets through its onboard sensors and integration with manned assets».

MQ-8C Fire Scout leverages a Bell 407 commercial aircraft for its airframe, supporting affordability through reduced lifecycle costs, including initial development, supply chain and flight hour reliability. MQ-8C Fire Scout is also equipped with a Leonardo AN/ZPY-8 (Osprey) radar which enables it to detect and automatically track contacts at extremely long ranges, at night and even in stormy weather conditions when visibility is extremely poor.

Designed in San Diego, California and Fort Worth, Texas by a joint Northrop Grumman/Bell team and manufactured in Ozark, Alabama and Moss Point, Mississippi, the MQ-8C Fire Scout achieved initial operational capability in June 2019 and will begin replacing the MQ-8B Fire Scout variant on upcoming deployments.

Northrop Grumman is a technology company, focused on global security and human discovery. Our pioneering solutions equip our customers with capabilities they need to connect, advance and protect the U.S. and its allies. Driven by a shared purpose to solve our customers’ toughest problems, our 90,000 employees define possible every day.

Flight testing

The U.S. Navy, with support from Northrop Grumman Corporation, commenced flight testing of the MQ-8C Fire Scout equipped with the Leonardo AN/ZPY-8 radar.

First deployed MQ-8Cs will be equipped with AN/ZPY-8 radar

«The AN/ZPY-8 radar significantly increases Fire Scout’s detection and tracking of targets. The ability to simultaneously employ multiple modes supports U.S. Navy intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance requirements», said Melissa Packwood, program manager, tactical autonomous systems, Northrop Grumman. «This increased capability enables Fire Scout to extend ranges to meet emerging requirements».

Operating out of Webster Outlying Field, the MQ-8C’s first flight with the radar occurred February 27. Testing began with several weeks of ground test prior to the first flight and continues to progress as the U.S. Navy and Northrop Grumman consider mission expansion opportunities for the platform.

To date, Northrop Grumman has delivered 32 of 38 MQ-8Cs to the U.S. Navy, all of which will be retrofit with the AN/ZPY-8 radar. The MQ-8C achieved Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in June 2019 and is scheduled for its first deployment in 2021.

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