Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Navy conducted the first flight of an MQ-8B Fire Scout equipped with a new maritime surveillance radar that will “drastically” improve the Navy’s long-range surface search capabilities, the contractor said. The Navy plans to field the radar on the unmanned helicopter next year.
The Fire Scout program conducted the first flight with the AN/ZPY-4(V)1 multi-mode radar at Webster Field Annex, part of the Patuxent River, Md., Naval Air Station on June 16. Northrop Grumman modified the Telephonics RDR-1700B+ radar for use on the MQ-8B, which is based on the Sikorsky-Schweizer 333 manned helicopter.
Northrop Grumman announced the selection of the Telephonics radar in January 2013 following an evaluation of several systems. The X-band search radar complements the MQ-8B’s Flir Systems Brite Star II electro-optical/infrared payload and provides inverse synthetic aperture (ISAR), stripmap and spotlight SAR modes for imaging targets. According to the Navy, it will increase situational awareness and threat warning in a high-traffic littoral environment. The service has said it is also looking at the market for a surveillance radar to equip the larger MQ-8C based on the Bell 407 helicopter.
The Navy thus far has ordered 17 MQ-8C unmanned helicopters. Its plans call for fielding eight MQ-8B systems, comprising 23 airframes, and 48 MQ-8C systems comprising 96 airframes. In its Fiscal Year 2015 budget submission, the service canceled MQ-8C buys through 2019.