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U.S. Navy’s Next Drone Helicopter Nails Ship Deck Check Ahead of Deployment

American military forces rely on a large fleet of drones for some of their numerous reconnaissance and fire support missions. Since the year 2000, that fleet contains something called the Fire Scout, which is a helicopter-type autonomous machine manufactured by Northrop Grumman.
Northrop Grumman MQ-8C Fire Scout 1 photo
Photo: Northrop Grumman
The Fire Scout is presently deployed by several military branches of the United States. In the case of the Navy, the drone presently in use is in MQ-8B configuration. That is a machine powered by a Rolls-Royce engine, making it capable of reaching a maximum speed of 132 mph (213 kph) and giving it a flight period of up to eight hours.

But that version is getting old, and the Navy plans to replace it with a new one. MQ-8C is how the newcomer is called, and it recently just passed “the initial fit check” on the deck of a Navy ship, the USS Anchorage.

Like the previous version, the C’s airframe is based on the commercially available Bell 407, and uses most of the avionics from the B version. The systems it uses allow it to take off and land on any aviation-capable ship, but also on unprepared areas.

For the military missions at hand, it packs a new radar system and should be ready for deployment sometime this summer, according to the company making it.

Last we heard anything about the MQ-8C was in February, when Northrop Grumman announced it fitted one with the sonobuoys, receivers, and processors that could make it capable of anti-submarine warfare (ASW). Back then, it was the first time a vertical takeoff drone was used to conduct a large area multistatic acoustic search.

For now, the company did not say how many of the Navy’s helicopter drones will be replaced. To date, just a small number of MQ-8Bs are used by the U.S. military.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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