One of the largest reconnaissance and surveillance UAVs, Northrop Grumman’s Fires Scout, built from a Bell 407 Helicopter is scheduled for deployment with the US Navy in 2021.
The US Navy, with support from Northrop Grumman commenced flight testing of the MQ-8C Fire Scout equipped with the Leonardo AN/ZPY-8 radar in February.
“The AN/ZPY-8 radar’s ability to simultaneously employ multiple modes supports US Navy intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance requirements,” said Melissa Packwood, program manager, tactical autonomous systems, Northrop Grumman.
The MQ-8C’s first flight with the radar occurred Feb. 27. Testing began with several weeks of ground test prior to the first flight and continues to progress as the Navy and Northrop Grumman consider mission expansion opportunities for the platform, a Northrop Grumman release said.
To date, Northrop Grumman has delivered 32 of 38 MQ-8Cs to the Navy, all of which will be retrofit with the AN/ZPY-8 radar which is derived from Leonardo’s Osprey 50 AESA radar.
The Bell 407 helicopter can seats seven including the pilot, carry a load of 2,347 pounds has a top speed of 140 knots, with a range of 324 nautical miles.
The Fire Scout builds on the Bell 407’s strengths in terms of vertical-takeoff/landing, long range and carry large and heavy payloads to provide a level of situational awareness unmatched by smaller surveillance drones.
The MQ-8C will fly from the decks of destroyers and other naval surface warships to extend the surveillance and reconnaissance range of the US Navy's surface fleet that are operating away from aircraft carriers.