The U.S. Navy is advancing supporting elements of the planned Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UClass) program as it awaits direction on the air vehicle component of the system. The service had expected to issue a final request for proposals (RFP) for the air vehicle component soon, but release of the document has been delayed.
Northrop Grumman MQ-8 Fire Scout
The U.S. Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman a $240 million contract modification to build three more RQ-4B Global Hawk Block 30 unmanned aircraft, each with integrated sensor suite and signals intelligence (Sigint) payloads, plus two Sigint payloads as retrofit kits. The new aircraft will join 18 Block 30 Global Hawks the service earlier planned to retire.
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 U.S. Marine Corps has deployed the new RQ-21A Blackjack unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to Afghanistan through an early operational capability. The 135-pound-mtow aircraft is undergoing initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E), a phase the service expects to complete this year.
Guided rocket conversion competitors BAE Systems and Raytheon announced new milestones for their respective offerings. BAE’s Advanced Precision Kill Weapon (APKWS) and Raytheon’s Talon laser-guided rocket (LGR) convert standard 2.75-inch Hydra rockets into precision guided munitions by adding a semi-active laser guidance package.
The U.S. Navy recently ordered five more MQ-8C Fire Scouts, bringing to 19 the number of Bell 407-based unmanned helicopters it plans to buy from Northrop Grumman. But the Fire Scout program faces scrutiny by Congress for cost overruns.
The U.S. Navy is fitting Sikorsky MH-60 Seahawk helicopters with a new digital rocket launcher, for the first time enabling them to carry a variety of weapons. The “smart” launcher will be integrated on the MH-60S as part of a rapid deployment capability, and later added to the MH-60R and potentially other platforms, the service said.
Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Navy conducted the first flight of the MQ-8C Fire Scout on October 31. The unmanned helicopter, which is based on the Bell 407, flew twice that day at the Point Mugu range at Naval Base Ventura County, Calif.
On the first flight in restricted airspace, the MQ-8C flew in a pattern around the airfield for seven minutes to validate autonomous control systems; on the second flight, it reached an altitude of 500 feet while flying in a pattern. The aircraft was operated by a combined Navy/Northrop Grumman flight-test team located at the naval base.
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 U.S. Navy awarded Northrop Grumman a contract to build six more MQ-8C unmanned helicopters based on the Bell 407, bringing to 14 the number of new, larger Fire Scouts under contract. The Navy plans to acquire a total of 30 MQ-8Cs under a rapid development effort that calls for deployment next year.
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