According to Naval Air Systems Command, on 10 March the MQ-8C unmanned helicopter surpassed 100 flight hours. The upgraded Fire Scout will continue testing at Point Mugu, California this year. In July, the Navy will conduct at-sea testing with the MQ-8C aboard USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109) to test the vehicle’s take-off and landing procedures. The MQ-8C’s initial deployment is planned for 2015.
MQ-8C Fire Scout
The MQ-8C is an unmanned adaption of the commercial Bell 407 helicopter built by Northrop Grumman and Bell Helicopter. The aircraft uses much of the same architecture as the MQ-8B Fire Scout, but features larger endurance (15 hours), payload, and cargo carrying capacity (2,600 pounds). The drone’s requirements were largely driven by US Special Operations Command and the prototype “Fire-X” aircraft made its first test flight on December 10, 2010. The deployable MQ-8C version first flew in October 2013.
The Navy will build 30 MQ-8Cs (2 for testing and 28 operational) which are expected to first deploy at sea by 2014.