The US Navy is looking to buy 38 units of Northrop Grumman MQ-8C Fire Scout Helicopters which was declared to be combat ready by the navy on June 28, 2019.
“Current plans call for purchasing 38 Northrop Grumman MQ-8C Fire Scouts, which are based on a commercial Bell 407 airframe,” reports USNI.
The US Navy declared initial operational capability (IOC) for the UAV in the last week of June. The IOC clears the way for the UAV to begin fleet operations and training, it will be deployed aboard the navy’s Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) in 2021.
The MQ-8C will be used in intelligence, and surveillance and reconnaissance operations, as well as precision targeting. The UAV is based on the commercial Bell 407 airframe, albeit with seats and other manned avionics equipment stripped out and replaced with remote controls and extra fuel tanks. The aircraft has a flight endurance of 12h, a max payload of 318kg (700lb) and a range of 150nm (278km).
The MQ-8C will also be equipped with Leonardo Osprey 30 lightweight active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. The radar also includes a range of digital modes including weather detection, air-to-air targeting and a ground-moving target indicator.