April 07, 2014      

RBR50 company Northrop Grumman is building five MQ-8C Fire Scout long-range unmanned helicopters for operation from destroyers and other surface warships under terms of a recently announced $43.8 million U.S. Navy contract.

The work, which is being done for the Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md., will be finished by the end of 2015.

The MQ-8C unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) will be more powerful than its previous two versions, the MQ-8A and MQ-8B. The MQ-8C will provide the Navy with an increased range of more than 30 percent, twice the endurance and twice the payload capacity over the MQ-8B, Northrop officials say. The MQ-8C also has a faster top speed and slightly more maximum range than previous models.

“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,” says George Vardoulakis, vice president, medium range tactical systems, Northrop Grumman. “We expect the MQ-8C Fire Scout will be ready for operations by year end.”

Military leaders back in 2011 had said they needed a shipboard UAV for 24-hour intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) continuous coverage out to a range of 150 nautical miles and thus required a longer-range version of the Fire Scout. The MQ-8B can operate no more than 12 hours per day and provide ISR coverage at a range of only 100 nautical miles, Navy officials say.

Final assembly of the MQ-8C will take place at Northrop’s Unmanned Systems Center in Moss Point, Miss. Northrop will do some of the work at three other locations: Dallas; Rancho Bernardo, Calif.; and Point Mugu, Calif.

Global Hawk Uses Additional SATCOM to Improve Data Transfer

In other news about Northrop, the U.S. Air Force’s RQ-4 Global Hawk drone has completed a series of ground and air demonstrations at Beale Air Force Base, Calif. that showed the adaptability of the Global Hawk to use an additional Satellite Communications (SATCOM) link to improve the transfer of mission data.

Northrop Grumman Global Hawk
Global Hawk

At the request of the Air Force, Northrop showed that the Global Hawk is compatible with different SATCOM architectures with no changes to hardware, software or payload. Taking place from Jan. 13-15, the demonstration highlighted the split link capability for Global Hawk that allows it to send mission data through a satellite link independent of the link used for command and control.

?This powerful demonstration illustrates Global Hawk?s unique versatility,? said Alfredo Ramirez, director and chief architect of Northrop Grumman?s HALE Enterprise. ?We?re ecstatic with Global Hawk?s ability to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance products to operational end-users via multiple paths.?

The Global Hawk, which has logged more than 110,000 flight hours to date, carries a variety of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sensor payloads to allow military commanders to gather near real-time images and uses radar to detect moving or stationary targets on the ground or at sea. The system supports anti-terrorism, anti-piracy, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, airborne communications and information-sharing missions.