Earlier this week at the Navy League Sea-Air-Space Exposition, Northrop Grumman and Bell Helicopter announced the joint development of a new high-capacity unmanned helicopter. Known as Fire-X, the machine is initially aimed at a U.S. Navy requirement for a medium-range unmanned air system that is expected to be announced next year. It has applications in several roles, including ISR and battlefield supply duties. The latter task is currently being evaluated by the Marine Corps using the Boeing A160T and Lockheed Martin/Kaman Unmanned K-Max.
Fire-X combines the systems architecture and advanced sensor capability that Northrop Grumman has developed for the MQ-8 Fire Scout UAS with the proven Bell 407 airframe. The partnership is developing the Fire-X to be fully compatible with a range of standards-based control segments. It is expected to offer a 3,000-pound payload, and up to 2,646 pounds externally, and to be able to fly for more than 14 hours.