US Navy Orders Additional MQ-8C Long Endurance FireScouts

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Northrop Grumman awarded Cubic a $3.7 million development contract for a new multi-band digital datalink for the MQ-8C unmanned helicopter UAS. Photo: Northrop grumman

The U.S. Navy has awarded Northrop Grumman Corporation a contract valued at more than $71 million to produce six additional next-generation Fire Scout unmanned helicopters. The Navy plans to purchase a total of 30 aircraft under a rapid development effort. Northrop Grumman is currently under contract to produce 14 Fire Scouts that are scheduled to begin deploying in 2014. The Fire Scout endurance upgrade, designated the MQ-8C and based on Bell Helicopter’s 407, will provide ship commanders with increased range, endurance and payload capacity over the current MQ-8B variant. Manufacturing and assembly operations of the new Fire Scout variant are well under way across the USA, with airframe modifications being made at Bell’s facility in Ozark, Ala., and final assembly being completed at Northrop Grumman’s Unmanned Systems Center in Moss Point, Miss.

Meanwhile the current variant, MQ-8B continues operations, maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) operations. Last week the fleet exceeded the 8,000-flight-hour mark operating under the U.S. African Command area of responsibility, in the Red Sea, Eastern Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Fire Scouts routinely flying 17-hour days while providing 12 hours on station ISR coverage.

After exceeding the 8,000-flight-hour mark Friday, an MQ-8B Fire Scout assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 22 Detachment 5 prepares to land aboard USS Robert G. Bradley for a "hot pump" and re-launch while conducting maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) operations in the Mediterranean Sea March 11. Fire Scouts aboard Bradley are routinely flying 17-hour days while providing 12 hours on station ISR coverage in the U.S. Africa Command area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo)
After exceeding the 8,000-flight-hour mark Friday, an MQ-8B Fire Scout assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 22 Detachment 5 prepares to land aboard USS Robert G. Bradley for a “hot pump” and re-launch while conducting maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) operations in the Mediterranean Sea March 11. Fire Scouts aboard Bradley are routinely flying 17-hour days while providing 12 hours on station ISR coverage in the U.S. Africa Command area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo)