Northrop Grumman Corporation’s autonomous helicopter, MQ-8C Fire Scout, took to the air for the first time from a U.S. Navy independence-class Littoral Combat ship, USS Montgomery (LCS-8). The flight took place off the coast of California during the second phase of Dynamic Interface testing, once again demonstrating Fire Scout’s stability and safety while operating around the ship.
The two week at-sea event allowed the U.S. Navy to test the MQ-8C Fire Scout’s airworthiness and ability to land and take off from a littoral combat ship throughout a broad operational envelope. The MQ-8C Fire Scout conducted its initial at-sea flight test aboard the guided missile destroyer, USS Jason Dunham (DDG-108) in December 2015.
The Fire Scout test team along with Navy Sailors (aboard the USS Montgomery) conducted dynamic interface testing to verify the MQ-8C launch and recovery procedures and test interoperability between the unmanned helicopter and the ship.
“This testing is critical as it provides the flight envelope to safely execute MQ-8C flights from this class of ship,” said Richard Gorman, Fire Scout lead assistant program manager for test and evaluation. “This test puts the MQ-8C one step closer to successfully deploying aboard the Navy’s fleet of littoral combat ships.”
The team conducted more than 37 recovery evolutions over seven days to verify Fire Scout’s capability to operate without degradation from electromagnetic interference, as well as provide pitch, roll and wind limits.
“Fire Scout’s successful testing aboard USS Montgomery and USS Dunham proves its capability to fly from multiple air capable ships,” said Capt. Jeff Dodge, program manager, Fire Scout, Naval Air Systems Command. “We plan to have the MQ-8C Fire Scout deployed aboard multiple ships in the near future giving the fleet the persistent intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting asset they need.”
With the completion of Dynamic Interface testing, the MQ-8C Fire Scout is one step closer to Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) and full operational deployment.
“Fire Scout’s autonomous technology coupled with the range and endurance of the MQ-8C airframe is truly a game-changer,” said Leslie Smith, vice president, tactical autonomous systems, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. “When the MQ-8C deploys with its advanced AESA maritime radar, the U.S. Navy will have unmatched situational awareness and the ability to provide sea control in any contested maritime environment.”
The MQ-8C Fire Scout builds on the ongoing accomplishments of the MQ-8B Fire Scout program. Helicopter Squadron 23 is currently operating onboard the deployed littoral combat ship, USS Coronado (LCS 4), with two MQ-8B Fire Scouts in the South China Sea.
Photo: MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter conducts first test flight from USS Montgomery (LCS-8) April 5 off the coast of California. (U.S. Navy photo)
Source: Press Releases