Northrop Grumman delivered the first MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter to the U.S. Navy earlier this month in preparation for ground and flight testing. The first MQ-8C arrived at the Naval Base Ventura County, Calif., Point Mugu sea test range, where it is assigned to the VX-30 air test and evaluation squadron.
The Navy has ordered 14 MQ-8Cs, which are based on the Bell 407 airframe, to meet an urgent requirement of the Special Operations Command. The larger helicopter promises greater range, endurance and capacity than its predecessor MQ-8B Fire Scout, which is based on the Sikorsky-Schweizer 333. Deployment of the MQ-8C is planned next year.
Northrop Grumman said initial ground testing at Point Mugu will ensure that airborne systems work properly and communicate with the aircraft’s ground control station prior to conducting its first flight.
“Ground and flight testing are the next steps in meeting the urgent requirement for maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance,” said George Vardoulakis, Northrop Grumman vice president for medium range tactical systems. “Testing on the Naval Air Systems Command test range provides us with extended air space to conduct and demonstrate long endurance and systems testing in a maritime environment.”