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Northrop Grumman MQ-8C Fire-X

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MQ-8C Fire-X

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First flight

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Primary user

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US$18.2 million in FY 2013 (flyaway cost)[2]

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Developed from

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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.[3] The unmanned Fire-X completed its first flight at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona on 20 December 2010.[4] 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.[5] 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.[6] 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".;[7] it has twice the endurance and three times the payload as the MQ-8B.[1]

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.[8] 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.[9] Initial at-sea tests were to be performed aboard the destroyer Jason Dunham in 2014.[10] 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.[11]

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.[12] Northrop Grumman delivered the second MQ-8C on 25 November 2013. They are under contract to build 14 helicopters.[13] The second MQ-8C flew on 12 February 2014. The aircraft had flown 66 hours by February 2014.[14] On 10 March 2014, the MQ-8C reached 100 flight hours.[15] 19 C-model Fire Scouts are on order with two in flight testing;[16] the first deployment on an LCS is scheduled for 2015.[17] The MQ-8C began testing aboard the Jason Dunham on 16 December 2014, executing 22 landings and recoveries in less than four hours.[18] Testing was completed on 19 December, executing 32 takeoffs and recoveries over three flights.[1][19]

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;[20] 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.[21] 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.[22] The MQ-8C will be ready to perform surface warfare missions in 2018 and mine countermeasure missions in 2020.[23]

The first operational MQ-8C was delivered to the US Navy in December 2014.[24] Its final developmental flight was completed on 29 April 2015, after 450 hours completed in 327 flights. Operational testing will begin in late 2015.[25]


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.[26]


23x15px United States

Specifications (MQ-8C)

File:Differences between the MQ-8B and MQ-8C.jpg
Size and performance differences between the Fire Scout and Fire-X drones

Data from Northrop Grumman,[27]

General characteristics


See also

Related development

Related lists


  1. ^ a b c Northrop Grumman MQ-8C Fire Scout VTOL UAV completes first ship-based test period with US Navy -, 23 December 2014
  2. ^ MQ-8 Fire Scout (MQ-8B/C).
  3. ^ "Northrop offers Fire-X concept for unmanned resupply"., May 4, 2010.
  4. ^ "Fire-X first flight revives team’s bid for cargo UAS market"., December 16, 2010.
  5. ^ "Northrop contracted to build new Firescout variant"., April 24, 2012.
  6. ^ Rolls-Royce Launches Latest M250 Engine Variant -, March 4, 2013
  7. ^ VIDEO: MQ-8C flies from USN destroyer -, December 24, 2014
  8. ^ First Upgraded MQ-8C Fire Scout Delivered to U.S. Navy - Northrop Grumman press release, July 19, 2013
  9. ^ Northrop close to completing Firescout weapon tests -, 14 August 2013
  10. ^ Fire Scout ends Afghan mission; future includes new variant, LCS work -, August 16, 2013
  11. ^ Northrop Grumman MQ-8C makes first engine runs -, September 24, 2013
  12. ^ VIDEO: MQ-8C Fire Scout completes first flight -, November 1, 2013
  13. ^ Navy receives second MQ-8C -, November 25, 2013
  14. ^ Second Northrop Grumman MQ-8C Fire Scout VTOL UAV takes flight -, February 13, 2014
  15. ^ MQ-8C Fire Scout reaches 100 flight hours -, March 17, 2014
  16. ^ Navy orders five more MQ-8Cs -, April 4, 2014.
  17. ^ "CNO's Position Report: 2014" (PDF). US Navy. November 4, 2014. Retrieved November 26, 2014. 
  18. ^ Navy to Start Competition for New Fire Scout Radar -, 17 December 2014
  19. ^ Video
  20. ^ Surveillance Radar Selected for Unmanned MQ-8B Fire Scouts -, 25 January 2013
  21. ^ New radar sought for MQ-8C -, July 22, 2014
  22. ^ Fire Scout Grows Up: Drone Getting Radar, Rockets, 2016 IOC -, December 17, 2014
  23. ^ Rocket firings planned for Fire Scout -, February 24, 2015
  24. ^ "Northrop Grumman Delivers First Operational MQ-8C Fire Scout to the US Navy". December 3, 2014. Retrieved April 13, 2015. 
  25. ^ Photo release: MQ-8C Fire Scout completes developmental flight test -, 4 May 2015
  26. ^ "The Navy’s Newest Drone Chopper". Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  27. ^ "MQ-8C Fire-X Data Sheet" Northrop Grumman. Retrieved 22 April 2015.

External links