Northrop Grumman MQ-8C Fire Scout Completes Operational Assessment

The Northrop Grumman Corporation, an American global defense and aerospace technology company, and the United States Navy have recently and successfully completed a land-based operational assessment (OA) with the autonomous, unmanned helicopter MQ-8C Fire Scout. The OA, which was help on November 20 at the Naval Base Ventura County in Point Mugu, California, had successfully revealed the sensor integration and endurance capabilities of the new MQ-8C airframe.

Real time data points were collected on the MQ-8C Fire Scout during OA flights in order to verify system performance parameters. The collected data was also utilized to assess the risk of future operational testing. 72 data points were gathered over the three week span which eventually totaled in at 83.4 hours of flight; all of the flights were performed by the United States Navy’s Air Test and Evaluation Squadron VX-1.

"MQ-8C represents a significant capability improvement to the Fleet," said the program manager of Fire Scout, Naval Air Systems Command, Capt. Jeff Dodge. "Testing has shown the system is meeting or exceeding our goals and the completion of this test event represents a major step on the road to Fleet introduction."

In order to validate the operational effectiveness, the MQ-8C systems and aviation sensors were meticulous tested at a variety of different ranges and altitudes. An improved ice detector system, which would alert the test team of icing during a flight, was successfully integrated during OA. This system enabled the test team to account for necessary altitude corrections in order to further the mission on its target detection runs.

"The completion of land-based OA is once again validation of the incredible performance the Fire Scout system is capable of," said the Fire Scout program director at Northrop Grumman, Leslie Smith. "As demonstrated in the test, Fire Scout's multi-INT capability and endurance, coupled with outstanding reliability are changing the way intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems are measured; we have significantly raised the bar."

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