Capt. Jeff Dodge, a U.S. Navy program manager, has said that the service branch plans to start initial operational test and evaluation of the Northrop Grumman-built MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter in spring, FlightGlobal reported Tuesday.
Dodge added that sea-based tests of MQ-8C on a littoral combat ship would follow in summer.
MQ-8C is based on the Bell 407 utility helicopter and is designed to conduct surveillance for the Navy’s littoral combat ships as well as provide higher payload capacity, range and endurance than the preceding MQ-8B aircraft.
Dodge noted that the Navy plans to launch an effort to develop advanced precision kill weapon systems for MQ-8C and finish deploying APKWS for MQ-8B in two years.