Fiscal 2014 is scheduled to mark several impor- tant milestones in the Navy’s fielding of a verti- cal takeoff unmanned aerial vehicle (VTUAV).
The MQ-8C, a new version of the Northrop Grumman-built Fire Scout VTUAV, is scheduled to make its first
flight, begin sea trials and begin its first deployment. The
proven MQ-8B version is scheduled to make its first
deployment onboard a Littoral Combat Ship (LCS).
The first MQ-8C Fire Scout, built around a Bell 407
helicopter airframe rather than the smaller Schweitzer
333 airframe used by the MQ-8B, has been delivered to
Naval Air Station Point Mugu, Calif., from which it
will make its first flight in October, Capt. Patrick
Smith, the Navy’s Fire Scout program manager, said in
an Aug. 13 briefing to reporters at the Association for
Unmanned Vehicle Systems International’s Unmanned
Systems 2013 conference in Washington.
Like its predecessor, the MQ-8C will carry the Brite
Star II electro-optical (EO/IR) sensor — also equipped
with a laser designator — and the Automatic
Information System as its sensors.
In addition to the air vehicle and the sensor systems,
the Fire Scout system includes a recovery system, a
ground control station and support equipment. The
Tactical Common Data Link (TCDL) is used to send
and receive data, including full-motion video, via line-of-sight Ultra-High Frequency (UHF) transmission.
The UHF radio also can be used for
In addition to a proven airframe
— which is similar to that of the
Navy’s TH- 57 Sea Ranger training
helicopter and the Army’s OH- 58
Kiowa scout helicopter — the MQ-
8C features improvements in the
Fire Scout’s Global Positioning System, vibration monitoring system,
TCDL, radar altimeter and APX-123
Identification Friend or Foe system,
as well as the ice detection capability
already resident in the Bell 407.
The MQ-8C is a Rapid Deployment Capability (RDC)
upgrade to increase the endurance of the Fire Scout system. The MQ-8C carries enough fuel for 12-hour endurance — compared with the 5. 5 hours of the MQ-8B
— allowing a pair deployed on a ship to provide a full
orbit of sensor coverage. It can carry a greater payload
and fuel load at 6,000 pounds, compared with 3,150
pounds for the MQ-8B.
The MQ-8C can fly at maximum and cruise speeds
of 135 knots and 115 knots, respectively, compared
with 85 and 80 for the MQ-8B. The MQ-8C also has a
service ceiling of 16,000 feet, compared with 12,500
feet for the MQ-8B.
For deck handling and storage, the MQ-8C is not
significantly larger than the MQ-8B. The “C” is 3 feet
longer with rotors folded, 1 foot taller and 2. 5 feet
wider that the older model. The C is able to fit in the
same hangars as the B.
The MQ-8C is scheduled for dynamic interface testing onboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile
destroyer USS Dunham in March. The new version also
is scheduled for a Quick-Reaction Assessment in the
third quarter of 2014 and for its first shipboard deployment in the fourth quarter of that year.
The second Freedom-class LCS, USS Fort Worth,
scheduled to go through dynamic interface testing
Low Risk, High Yield
Proven systems in a larger airframe will
increase endurance of the Fire Scout UAV
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
The MQ-8C version of the Fire Scout vertical takeoff unmanned aerial vehicle (VTUAV) will give the system greater payload — including
weapons — and endurance for surveillance and anti-surface warfare.
n The MQ-8C will make its first flight this year.
n The MQ-8B is scheduled for its first LCS deployment in 2014.
n MQ-8Bs are proving the worth of a VTUAV on surface warships.