The US Navy, with support from Northrop Grumman Corporation, commenced flight testing of the MQ-8C Fire Scout equipped with the Leonardo AN/ZPY-8 radar.
“The AN/ZPY-8 radar significantly increases Fire Scout’s detection and tracking of targets. The ability to simultaneously employ multiple modes supports US Navy intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance requirements,” Melissa Packwood, program manager, tactical autonomous systems, Northrop Grumman, said.
“This increased capability enables Fire Scout to extend ranges to meet emerging requirements.”
Operating out of Webster Outlying Field, the MQ-8C’s first flight with the radar occurred on February 27. Testing began with several weeks of ground test prior to the first flight and continues to progress as the navy and Northrop Grumman consider mission expansion opportunities for the platform.
To date, Northrop Grumman has delivered 32 of 38 MQ-8Cs to the US Navy, all of which will be retrofit with the AN/ZPY-8 radar.
The MQ-8C achieved initial operational capability in June 2019 and is scheduled for its first deployment in 2021.
The MQ-8C Fire Scout is the US Navy’s next-generation autonomous helicopter. The MQ-8C Fire Scout’s airframe is based on the commercial Bell 407, a mature helicopter with more than 1,600 airframes produced and over 4.4 million flight hours.
There is another Fire Scout variant – the smaller MQ-8B Fire Scout. This variant has deployed on multiple frigates and is currently deployed on a littoral combat ship (LCS).