The MQ-8C Fire Scout, an autonomous helicopter designed by Northrop Grumman, has carried out its first operations for the US Navy.
The unmanned helicopter, based on a Bell 407 commercial helicopter, was deployed operationally on December 12, 2021 with Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 22 about USS Milwaukee.
The MQ-8C provides expanded capabilities compared to the MQ-8B, which it will begin replacing on upcoming deployments.
“This is a significant milestone in the MQ-8C Fire Scout program,” Captain Eric Soderberg of the US Navy said in a statement published on January 24, 2022. “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.”
The MQ-8C offers over 10 hours of endurance and a range of more than 1,000 nautical miles (1852 km), Northop Grumman states. It is also equipped with a Leonardi AN/ZPY-8 (Osprey) radar to detect and track contacts and long ranges, at night and in poor weather conditions.
“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,” Lance Eischeid, director Fire Scout program at Northrop Grumman, commented.