The U.S. Navy commenced flight testing of the newest unmanned helicopter, Northrop Grumman MQ-8C Fire Scout, equipped with the Leonardo AN/ZPY-8 advanced search radar.
The Navy’s newest unmanned helicopter designed to operate concurrently with other airborne assets and littoral combat ships and the new radar will provide commanders an improved and integrated intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance picture.
“The AN/ZPY-8 radar significantly increases Fire Scout’s detection and tracking of targets. The ability to simultaneously employ multiple modes supports U.S. Navy intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance requirements,” said Melissa Packwood, program manager, tactical autonomous systems, Northrop Grumman. “This increased capability enables Fire Scout to extend ranges to meet emerging requirements.”
Leonardo’s radar increases detection and tracking of targets even when visibility is extremely poor.
Operating out of Webster Outlying Field, the MQ-8C’s first flight with the radar occurred Feb. 27. Testing began with several weeks of ground test prior to the first flight and continues to progress as the Navy and Northrop Grumman consider mission expansion opportunities for the platform.
To date, Northrop Grumman has delivered 32 of 38 MQ-8Cs to the Navy, all of which will be retrofit with the AN/ZPY-8 radar. The MQ-8C achieved initial operational capability in June 2019 and is scheduled for its first deployment in 2021.
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Also in April, the MQ-8C Fire Scout completed the first dynamic interface testing aboard Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB) Hershel “Woody” Williams.