SAN DIEGO, 15 March 2013. The Northrop Grumman Corp. Aerospace Systems sector in San Diego will build an additional six MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopters under terms of a $71 million U.S. Navy contract announced this week.
The MQ-8C shipboard unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is based on the Bell 407 helicopter from Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. in Fort Worth, Texas. The manned version of the Bell 407 seats seven, can carry a useful load of 2,347 pounds, flies as fast as 140 knots, and has a range of 324 nautical miles.
The Navy plans to purchase a total of 30 aircraft under a rapid development effort. Northrop Grumman is currently under contract to produce 14 Fire Scouts that are scheduled to begin deploying in 2014. The MQ-8C will provide ship commanders with increased range, endurance, and payload capacity over the current MQ-8B variant, Northrop Grumman officials say.
The primary advantage of the MQ-8C Fire Scout over its MQ-8B and MQ-8A versions is the newest shipboard UAV has double the useful payload of its predecessors. The newest model also has a somewhat faster top speed and slightly more maximum range than previous models of the Fire Scout.
The initial version of the Fire Scout is based on the Schweizer 333 helicopter from Schweizer Aircraft Corp., a Sikorsky Aircraft company based in Horseheads, N.Y. Schweizer Aircraft now is doing business as the Sikorsky Military Completions Center (SMCC).
The commercial version of the Schweizer 333 seats three, can carry a payload of 1,250 pounds, can fly as fast as 105 knots, and has a maximum range of 319 nautical miles.
Manufacturing and assembly operations of the new Fire Scout variant re in progress, with airframe modifications being made at Bell's facility in Ozark, Ala., and final assembly being completed at Northrop Grumman's Unmanned Systems Center in Moss Point, Miss.