Northrop Grumman has been chosen by the U.S. Navy to produce the next-generation Fire Scout unmanned helicopter using the Bell 407 airframe. The new variant provides greater range, endurance and payload capacity to ship commander's intelligence-gathering efforts. The defense giant will produce a total of eight Fire Scouts for the deal worth $262 million. The Navy plans to purchase a total of 28 aircraft under a rapid development effort. "Through our company-funded Fire-X demonstration effort we proved that using the mature unmanned systems architecture developed for the MQ-8B Fire Scout paired with the Bell 407 helicopter would provide greater capability efficiently and affordably," said Duke Dufresne, vice president and general manager for unmanned systems. "By using systems that have many years of development already invested in them we can meet the Navy's needs quickly". Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for the MQ-8C program. Major suppliers for new variant include Bell Helicopter and Rolls Royce.