The U.S. Navy is currently testing the joint operations of an unmanned aerial system with a manned aircraft using the Northrop Grumman-built MQ-8C Fire Scout UAS and the Sikorsky-made MH-60S Seahawk helicopter, National Defense reported Tuesday.
MQ-8C is intended to replace the Navy’s fleet of MQ-8B aircraft and work with manned helicopters on missions such as reconnaissance, situational awareness, aerial fire support and precision targeting support.
Jack Thomas, Fire Scout mission engineering director at Northrop’s aerospace systems arm, said the Navy directed Northrop to build the new Fire Scout using a larger airframe while retaining the autonomy and sensors of the MQ-8B model.
MQ-8C is based on Bell Helicopter‘s Bell 407 airframe and is designed to provide an increased endurance of approximately 12 hours as well as fly at up to 16,000 feet.
Thomas added that MQ-8C will feature Leonardo‘s Osprey 30 active electronically scanned array radar that works to boost detection range.
The Navy also wants to equip MQ-8C with a Link 16 data exchange system and a capacity to update the targeting of weapons while in flight, Thomas noted.