24 May 2007

MQ-8B Fire Scout; Killer copter

© Northrop Grumman
Too bad Northrop/Grumman already dubbed another UAV the Killer Bee because that is what I think of when I look at this (not so) little guy.

© Northrop Grumman

The RQ-8A started life back in 2002 on its first flight during the LRIP (Low-Rate Initial Production) phase. The Navy was impressed but canceled the aircraft not long after but, continues to fund the program. Northrop/Grumman knew they had something special so they moved there test facilities from China Lake to Webster Field, near Patuxent River so more people could see it fly - particularly as it was then in the navy's back yard for UAV.

The RQ-8A is based on the Schweizer 333 light turbine helicopter (which is based on the non-turbine Hughes 300C). The RQ-8A showed a lot of promise but it was lacking in some key areas. The RQ-8s endurance was the major area of lacking. During this time, Northrop/Grumman offered the Navy an updated model dubbed the Sea Scout. The Sea Scout now with its four bladed rotors and more fuel could carry a 500lb load for 5 hours. By July of 2003 funding was continued. The RQ-8A was still being used to test systems and had made several landings aboard the USS Nashville.

© Northrop Grumman
These landings were done completely without input from the pilots. The Navy will use the MQ-8Bs in conjunction with their new LCS (Littoral Combat Ships) for recon and protection.

Seeing the benefits from the Navy’s program, the U.S. Army decided to see about using the MQ-8B for its FCS UAV (Future Combat Systems UAV) system requirement. In total, the MQ-8Bs between the Navy and the Army will come out to about 192 total aircraft. I am sort of excited about these. They will be able to carry the APKWS II rockets as well as the same Viper Strike system currently being tested on the USAF AFSOC AC-130H and AC-130Us. © Northrop Grumman

The U.S. Army’s system conducted its first engine run test on 22 May 2007. "The engine run is a significant milestone for the FCS program. It marks completion of final assembly of the initial manufacturing phase of the first Army Fire Scout," said Joe Emerson, Northrop Grumman's FCS Fire Scout program manager. "We've been diligent in tracking our costs and meeting milestones such as this, which validates our commitment to quality, technical excellence, cost and delivery. We're definitely looking forward to fielding this aircraft."

© Northrop Grumman
We will be seeing more from these two little devils, I am sure.

For more info and pictures...
Northrop Grumman
Navy UAV News

Here is a good write-up by Defense Industry Daily

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