Northrop Grumman MQ-8C Fire-X
||First flight|| Introduction
||Status|| Primary user
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The Northrop Grumman MQ-8C Fire-X is an unmanned autonomous helicopter developed by Northrop Grumman for use by the United States Armed Forces. The Fire-X is designed to provide reconnaissance, situational awareness, aerial fire support and precision targeting support for ground, air and sea forces. The MQ-8C airframe is based on the Bell 407, while the avionics and other systems are developed from those used on the MQ-8B Fire Scout.
Design and development
On 3 May 2010, Northrop announced plans to fly a Bell 407 helicopter modified with autonomous controls from the MQ-8B. Named Fire-X, it was to demonstrate an unmanned cargo resupply capability to the US Navy. The unmanned Fire-X completed its first flight at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona on 20 December 2010. On 23 April 2012, Northrop received a $262.3 million contract from the Navy to build the newly designated MQ-8C Fire Scout; the work included two developmental aircraft and six low-rate production aircraft initially. The Navy wants 28 MQ-8Cs for naval special operations forces. In March 2013, the Navy incorporated the Rolls-Royce 250-C47E engine into the MQ-8C for a 5 percent increase in "hot and high" power, 2 percent reduced fuel consumption, 8 percent increase in rated takeoff power, and better reliability. The Bell 407-based MQ-8C has an endurance of 12 hours, a range of Script error: No such module "convert"., and a payload capacity of about Script error: No such module "convert".; it has twice the endurance and three times the payload as the MQ-8B.
In early July 2013, Northrop Grumman delivered the first MQ-8C to the Navy. Ground testing was done to ensure that the systems worked properly and communicated with the ground control station prior to conducting the first flight. The MQ-8C shares software, avionics, payloads, and ship ancillary equipment with the MQ-8B, while the upgraded airframe provides double the endurance and three times the payload. The MQ-8C was expected to fly in early October 2013, and be deployed in late 2014. The APKWS II will be added to the C-model sometime after 2016. Initial at-sea tests were to be performed aboard the destroyer Jason Dunham in 2014. On 24 September 2013, the MQ-8C Fire-X delivered to the Navy turned on its engines for 10 minutes in preparation for first flight. A second MQ-8C was to be delivered on 30 September. First flight was scheduled for early to mid-October, although the exact date was not determined, as such tests are often delayed by minor system problems. The MQ-8C flight test regime is to last six months.
The MQ-8C Fire Scout first flew on 31 October 2013. It flew for 7 minutes in restricted airspace using autonomous controls at Naval Base Ventura County. It flew a second time hours later that day to an altitude of 500 ft. The MQ-8C was jointly operated by Northrop Grumman and the Navy. Northrop Grumman delivered the second MQ-8C on 25 November 2013. They are under contract to build 14 helicopters. The second MQ-8C flew on 12 February 2014. The aircraft had flown 66 hours by February 2014. On 10 March 2014, the MQ-8C reached 100 flight hours. 19 C-model Fire Scouts are on order with two in flight testing; the first deployment on an LCS is scheduled for 2015. The MQ-8C began testing aboard the Jason Dunham on 16 December 2014, executing 22 landings and recoveries in less than four hours. Testing was completed on 19 December, executing 32 takeoffs and recoveries over three flights.
Northrop Grumman flew the MQ-8C demonstrator installed with their AN/ZPY-1 STARLite Radar, although there was no requirement for an MQ-8C radar at the time; the Navy began seeking information for a radar for the MQ-8C in July 2014 with surface search, synthetic aperture radar, inverse SAR, and weather mode capabilities. A request for proposals (RFP) for a radar for the MQ-8C is expected to be released in early 2015. Although the AN/ZPY-4 has been installed on some B-model Fire Scouts, the larger C-model can accommodate a larger and more powerful radar. The MQ-8C will be ready to perform surface warfare missions in 2018 and mine countermeasure missions in 2020.
The first operational MQ-8C was delivered to the US Navy in December 2014. Its final developmental flight was completed on 29 April 2015, after 450 hours completed in 327 flights. Operational testing will begin in late 2015.
- MQ-8C Fire-X
- Improved variant of the MQ-8B Fire Scout using avionics from the MQ-8B into the larger Bell 407 airframe. It has a 14 hr endurance with 600-700 lb in payload.
Data from Northrop Grumman,General characteristics
- Crew: 0
- Payload: 2,950 lb ()
- Length: 34.7 ft (10.6 m)
- Rotor diameter: 36.6 ft (11.2 m)
- Height: 10.9 ft (3.3 m)
- Max. takeoff weight: 6,000 lb ()
- Powerplant: 1 × Rolls-Royce 250-C47B, 813 shp (606 kW)
- Maximum speed: Script error: No such module "convert".
- Endurance: 15 hours maximum
- Service ceiling: 20,000 ft (6,100 m)
- Related development
- Related lists
- MQ-8 Fire Scout (MQ-8B/C). bga-aeroweb.com
- "Northrop offers Fire-X concept for unmanned resupply". Flightglobal.com, May 4, 2010.
- "Fire-X first flight revives team’s bid for cargo UAS market". Flightglobal.com, December 16, 2010.
- "Northrop contracted to build new Firescout variant". Flightglobal.com, April 24, 2012.
- Rolls-Royce Launches Latest M250 Engine Variant - Rolls-Royce.com, March 4, 2013
- VIDEO: MQ-8C flies from USN destroyer - Flightglobal.com, December 24, 2014
- First Upgraded MQ-8C Fire Scout Delivered to U.S. Navy - Northrop Grumman press release, July 19, 2013
- Northrop close to completing Firescout weapon tests - Flightglobal.com, 14 August 2013
- Fire Scout ends Afghan mission; future includes new variant, LCS work - Militarytimes.com, August 16, 2013
- Northrop Grumman MQ-8C makes first engine runs - Flightglobal.com, September 24, 2013
- VIDEO: MQ-8C Fire Scout completes first flight - Flightglobal.com, November 1, 2013
- Navy receives second MQ-8C - Flightglobal.com, November 25, 2013
- Second Northrop Grumman MQ-8C Fire Scout VTOL UAV takes flight - Navyrecognition.com, February 13, 2014
- MQ-8C Fire Scout reaches 100 flight hours - sUASNews.com, March 17, 2014
- Navy orders five more MQ-8Cs - Flightglobal.com, April 4, 2014.
- "CNO's Position Report: 2014" (PDF). US Navy. November 4, 2014. Retrieved November 26, 2014.
- Navy to Start Competition for New Fire Scout Radar - Nationaldefensemagazine.org, 17 December 2014
- Surveillance Radar Selected for Unmanned MQ-8B Fire Scouts - Ainonline.com, 25 January 2013
- New radar sought for MQ-8C - Flightglobal.com, July 22, 2014
- Fire Scout Grows Up: Drone Getting Radar, Rockets, 2016 IOC - Breakingdefense.com, December 17, 2014
- Rocket firings planned for Fire Scout - Shephardmedia.com, February 24, 2015
- Photo release: MQ-8C Fire Scout completes developmental flight test - NAVAIR.Navy.mil, 4 May 2015
- "The Navy’s Newest Drone Chopper". Retrieved 6 July 2012.
- "MQ-8C Fire-X Data Sheet" Northrop Grumman. Retrieved 22 April 2015.
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