A Northrop Grumman Corporation MQ-8C Fire Scout, the U.S. Navy’s only ship-based autonomous helicopter program, passes the initial fit check aboard the USS Anchorage (LPD-23) at Naval Base San Diego demonstrating the aircrafts’ suitability for the U.S. Marine Corps’ amphibious warfare mission. MQ-8C Fire Scout, which has integrated the AN/ZPY-8 radar, is expected to reach Initial Operating Capability in this new configuration this summer and begin replacing MQ-8B aircraft on upcoming deployments.
The Northrop Grumman MQ-8C Fire Scout is an unmanned helicopter developed by Northrop Grumman for use by the United States Navy. The MQ-8C also has autonomous take-off and landing capability. It is designed to provide reconnaissance, situational awareness, aerial fire support and precision targeting support for ground, air and sea forces. The MQ-8C airframe is based on the Bell 407, while the avionics and other systems are developed from those used on the MQ-8B Fire Scout. It first flew in October 2013 and achieved initial operational capability on 28 June 2019.
On 3 May 2010, Northrop Grumman announced plans to fly a Bell 407 helicopter modified with autonomous controls from the MQ-8B. Named Fire-X, it was to demonstrate an unmanned cargo resupply capability to the US Navy. On 23 April 2012, Northrop Grumman received a $262.3 million contract from the Navy to build the newly designated MQ-8C Fire Scout; the work included two developmental aircraft and six low-rate production aircraft initially. The Navy wants 28 MQ-8Cs for naval special operations forces. The MQ-8C Fire Scout first flew on 31 October 2013.
The first operational MQ-8C was delivered to the US Navy in December 2014.In July 2018, Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 1 concluded the initial operational test and evaluation of the MQ-8C, conducted aboard the USS Coronado. In tandem with a change in focus for the LCS involving increasing the ship’s lethality, the MQ-8C’s role was changed to focus on providing targeting and surveillance data. The MQ-8C will use its long endurance and radar to provide the LCS with enhanced over-the-horizon targeting capabilities. The helicopter could carry 7-tube APKWS guided rocket pods.