The MQ-8C Fire Scout completed a three week operational assessment period Nov. 20 at Naval Base Ventura County at Point Mugu, California.
The OA included 11 flights totaling 83.4 flight hours where Fire Scout was tested against maritime and surveyed land targets to assess system performance, endurance and reliability of the unmanned helicopter.
“MQ-8C is meeting or exceeding its performance objectives and will deliver greater warfighting capabilities to the fleet in the future,” said Capt Jeff Dodge, Fire Scout’s program manager for Multi-Mission Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems.
The MQ-8C will provide twice the endurance and three times the payload as the existing MQ-8B. It has a range of 150 nautical miles and a payload capacity of more than 700 pounds which provides unique situational awareness and precision target support for the Navy on land and at-sea with its multiple intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities.
The smaller MQ-8B, currently deployed on the USS Fort Worth (LCS-3), has flown more than 16,000 hours and demonstrated the ability to operate alongside the MH-60 manned helicopter during ship-based operations.
“The C model will greatly impact how we monitor, understand and control the sea and air space around small surface combatants,” Dodge said.
The MQ-8C has logged 427 flights and more than 730 flight hours to date. Initial ship-based testing is scheduled to begin in fiscal year 2017.
The MQ-8 Fire Scout system is designed to provide reconnaissance, situational awareness, and precision targeting support for ground, air and sea forces.
The MQ-8B can operate from air-capable ships with deployments on Guided Missile Frigates (FFG) and the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS).
The MQ-8C air vehicle upgrade will provide longer endurance, range and greater payload capability than the MQ-8B . It will conduct initial testing on guided-missile destroyers (DDG)-class ship.
Overall Length: 34.7 ft
Weight: zero fuel weight - 3,200 lbs; std day fuel and payload - 6,000 lbs
Max Speed: 135 kts
Cruise Speed: 115 kts
Service Ceiling: 16,000 ft
Std. Day Max Endurance (w/300 lb payload): 12 hrs
Contractor: Northrop Grumman Unmanned Systems