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.
United States Navy
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.
Although already deployed on operations to meet urgent needs, the Northrop Grumman MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned surveillance helicopter has reliability and sustainability problems that have delayed its regular fielding. An updated selected acquisition report (SAR) obtained by InsideDefense.com reveals that both the initial operational capability and the full-rate production decision have been delayed by about two years until May or June 2014.
In the early hours of 15 May, European naval forces (Eunavfor) carried out their first strike against a pirate base in Somalia. The ships and helicopters of Eunavfor undertaking “Operation Atalanta” have attacked renegade vessels at sea on numerous occasions, but Tuesday morning’s raid was their first strike against targets on shore.
King Aerospace has been awarded a one-year contract with the U.S. Navy to provide support on the service’s C-9B fleet. It is valued at approximately $11 million. That number could grow to as much as $62 million should the Navy exercise four additional options. Services include contractor logistics support, depot level (D-level) maintenance, on-site material management and logistics support for the C-9B fleet. The C-9B is the military version of the commercial DC-9-30. King Aerospace has facilities in Addison, Texas and Ardmore, Okla.
A century ago, the U.S. Navy purchased its first airplane after a series of tests in which a brave pilot–wearing inflated bicycle inner tubes as a lifejacket–demonstrated one could land safely aboard a ship and then take off from the same vessel. The date of that purchase–May 8, 1911–is considered the birthday of naval aviation. In the hundred years since, the aircraft carrier has evolved from a scouting tool to a leading strike weapon.
A report by the UK’s National Audit Office (NAO) has listed some risks arising from the decision by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) to switch its Joint Strike Fighter selection from the F-35B STOVL (short takeoff and vertical landing) version to the F-35C carrier version.
Insitu, a subsidiary of Boeing, has won the U.S. Navy’s small tactical unmanned air system (STUAS)/Tier II competition to provide the Navy and Marine Corps with an easily deployable ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) capability. A decision on STUAS/Tier II was originally expected in the spring, but was delayed while the Navy continued its evaluations of competing systems.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates chose the Navy League convention to spell out some hard truths about future funding. After paying tribute to the thousands of sailors and marines deployed on combat operations in the Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan, Gates noted that the Navy has been the most vocal of the U.S. armed services in protecting its force size.
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