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MQ-8B Fire Scout To Enter Production

The MQ-8B Fire Scout Vertical takeoff and landing Tactical Unmanned Air Vehicle (VTUAV).
by Staff Writers
San Diego CA (SPX) Jun 01, 2007
The U.S. Department of Defense has announced that Northrop Grumman's MQ-8B Fire Scout Vertical takeoff and landing Tactical Unmanned Air Vehicle (VTUAV) has reached Milestone C, signifying the beginning of its low-rate initial production phase. The Fire Scout is the first unmanned aircraft system (UAS) within the U.S. Navy and the third UAS of all U.S. military branches to meet Milestone C in the Defense Department acquisition process.

"This is a significant step for the Fire Scout program and for unmanned systems overall," said Dyke Weatherington, Deputy of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Planning Task Force for the Office of the Secretary of Defense. "The military and contractor program offices have been diligent about meeting and exceeding requirements set forth for the new capabilities these systems offer the warfighter, including endurance, range and payload weight."

"With Milestone C complete, the Fire Scout program is on track to conduct payload flights this fall and enter initial operational evaluation and then achieve initial operational capability in 2008 as planned," said CDR Rob Murphy, Navy VTUAV program manager.

The Fire Scout's operational requirements include real-time video imagery collection, intelligence gathering, communications-relay capability, precision targeting and battle damage assessment from the Littoral Combat Ship.

The Navy has nine Fire Scouts currently on contract with Northrop Grumman. The first was delivered in November to Naval Air Station Patuxent River. The successful series of first flights was completed just weeks later. All nine are expected to be delivered by the end of 2008.

"At this time, we are supporting the Fire Scout system from our Unmanned Systems office located in Hollywood, Md., to support flight test as well as the engineering and logistics needs of the Navy's VTUAV program," added Gene Fraser, vice president of Northrop Grumman's Unmanned Systems. "As the program grows, the number of Northrop Grumman support personnel will grow as well."

System design work on the Fire Scout is performed at the Integrated Systems Unmanned Systems Development Center in San Diego, Calif. The Fire Scout is assembled at the Unmanned Systems Center in Moss Point, Miss. Fire Scout is based on a commercial-off-the-shelf Schweizer 333 manned helicopter manufactured in Horseheads, N.Y. The baseline design has proven a highly reliable and effective platform with extensive operating history.

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