Northrop Grumman Corporation confirmed it has received a new U.S. Navy contract to build an additional series of the MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopters. The MQ-8C is “drone” helicopter that Northrop designed for reconnaissance, “situational awareness,” aerial fire support, and precision targeting support for ground, air, and sea forces.

The unmanned aircraft allows ship commanders to extend their intelligence-gathering capabilities beyond the horizon of their established reconnaissance limits. The Fire Scout design incorporates on-board sensors that capture full-motion video, identify targets and distribute information in real time to various users. This allows ship-based commanders to maintain awareness of a specified area or keep an eye on a target over long periods.

In addition, the MQ-8C can remain “on station” for over eight hours and support long-duration missions, in that way reducing the number of aircraft needed to sustain operations.

The MQ-8C is a larger variant of the MQ-8B that debuted in 2002, and is itself a variant of the Bell 407 civilian utility helicopter. The new design’s larger helicopter airframe provides more range, endurance, and payload capacity than the current MQ-8B Fire Scout variant.

The terms of the new contract placement were not announced.

Northrop Grumman will build five aircraft under the new assignment, bringing to 19 the total of MQ-8Cs now in development.  

Final assembly of the aircraft will take place at Northrop Grumman’s Unmanned Systems Center in Moss Point, Miss.

"Land-based flight tests of the system are progressing well and we're working with the Navy to conduct our first ship-based flights this summer," stated George Vardoulakis, Northrop Grumman’s vice president of medium-range tactical systems. "We expect the MQ-8C Fire Scout will be ready for operations by year end."

Northrop Grumman is a leading global security company providing innovative systems, products and solutions in unmanned systems, cyber, C4ISR, and logistics and modernization to government and commercial customers worldwide.