Helicopters Magazine

Features Innovations UAVs
Northrup Grumman moves forward with MQ-8 program

April 24, 2012  By Carey Fredericks

April 24, 2012, Patuxent River, Md. - Engineers from the Northrop Grumman Corp. Aerospace Systems sector in San Diego will develop and build two unmanned helicopters, as well as six MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as part of the vertical take-off and landing tactical unmanned aerial vehicle (VTUAV) endurance upgrade rapid deployment capability, under terms of a potential $262.3 million contract announced Monday.

MQ-8B Fire Scout is an unmanned helicopter
for U.S. Navy situational awareness and precision targeting. The
unmanned aircraft is based on the Schweizer Model 333 two-seat manned
helicopter from Schweizer Aircraft Corp. in Horseheads, N.Y. It can
autonomously take off and land on any aviation-capable warship and at
unprepared landing zones near battlefields.

The contract, awarded by U.S. Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent
River Naval Air Station, Md., is to develop, build, and test two
vertical take-off and landing tactical unmanned aerial vehicles
(VTUAVs), build six air vehicles, and provide spare parts in support of
the VTUAV endurance upgrade rapid deployment capability effort.

The 9.4-foot tall, 3,150-pound MQ-8B Fire Scout can reach speeds of
up to 125 knots, and altitudes of 20,000 feet. It’s capable of
continuous operations that provide coverage up to 110 nautical miles
from the launch site.


The MQ-8B Fire Scout vertical takeoff and landing tactical unmanned
aerial vehicle (VTUAV) has a modular mission payload of electro-optical
and infrared sensors, as well as a laser pointer and laser rangefinder,
which enable the aircraft to find, track, and designate targets and
perform battle damage assessment. The MQ-8 also can act as a
communications node for network-centric warfare.

Northrop Grumman builds the MQ-8 Fire Scout at a facility at Trent
Lott International Airport in Moss Point, Miss., which opened in 2006.

The unmanned helicopter uses the Tactical Control Segment (TCS)
software from the Raytheon Co. Intelligence and Information Systems
business, the FLIR Systems BRITE Star II electro-optical and infrared
(EO/IR) payload, and the Northrop Grumman COBRA multi-spectral mine
detection payload. The aircraft also carries the Tactical Common Data
Link (TCDL) from Cubic Corp. to relay real-time wide-band imagery and
other information.

Northrop Grumman has demonstrated MQ-8 Fire Scout radar capability to
detect and track several targets with a Telephonics RDR-1700B radar
system. The Fire Scout eventually will be armed with gun pods, Hydra
70-millimeter rocket pods, and small missiles.

On the Northrop Grumman MQ-8 Fire Scout team are Cubic Defense
Applications — communications; FLIR Systems Inc. — Brite STAR II
payload; GE Intelligent Platforms — vehicle management computer;
Kearfott Inc. — guidance and navigation; Lockheed Martin Corp. — ship
integration; Raytheon Co. — tactical control system; Rockwell Collins
— avionics; Rolls-Royce Corp. — engine; Sierra Nevada Corporation —
unmanned common automatic recovery system; and Schweizer Aircraft Corp.
— airframe.

The MQ-8 Fire Scout is 30 feet long, 9.4 feet tall, can fly as fast
as 125 knots to altitudes of 20,000 feet, and has a rotor diameter of
27.5 feet.

On the current contract, Northrop Grumman will do the work in Moss
Point, Miss.; San Diego; and Yuma, Ariz., and should be finished in May


Stories continue below

Print this page