US Navy has started flight testing of MQ-8C unmanned air system with Leonardo AN/ZPY-8 radar

The U.S. Navy, with support from Northrop Grumman Corporation, commenced flight testing of the MQ-8C Fire Scout Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) equipped with the Leonardo AN/ZPY-8 radar. The MQ-8C Fire Scout is an unmanned helicopter developed by Northrop Grumman for use by the United States Navy.
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US Navy has started flight testing of MQ 8C unmanned air system with Leonardo AN ZPY 8 radar 925 001 MQ-8C Fire Scout Unmanned Aerial Systems UAS. (Picture source US Navy)

“The AN/ZPY-8 radar significantly increases Fire Scout’s detection and tracking of targets. The ability to simultaneously employ multiple modes supports U.S. Navy intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance requirements,” said Melissa Packwood, program manager, tactical autonomous systems, Northrop Grumman. “This increased capability enables Fire Scout to extend ranges to meet emerging requirements.”

Operating out of Webster Outlying Field, the MQ-8C’s first flight with the radar occurred Feb. 27. Testing began with several weeks of ground test prior to the first flight and continues to progress as the Navy and Northrop Grumman consider mission expansion opportunities for the platform.

To date, Northrop Grumman has delivered 32 of 38 MQ-8Cs to the Navy, all of which will be retrofit with the AN/ZPY-8 radar. The MQ-8C achieved initial operational capability in June 2019 and is scheduled for its first deployment in 2021.

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The MQ-8C is equipped with a four-bladed main rotor and a two-bladed tail rotor. It has the ability to take-off and land on prepared or unprepared landing zones. When operating from air-capable warships, the UAS can be controlled from the ship’s ground control station. It has a length of 12.6 m , a width of 27 m, a height of 3.3 m, and has a rotor diameter of 10.7 m. Its maximum weight is 2,722 kg, internal payload capacity is 225 kg and typical payload capacity is 136 kg. It can carry a maximum sling load of 1,200 kg.

The MQ-8C UAS can be integrated with a range of payloads to provide war fighters with enhanced surveillance. Its payload systems include laser range finder (LRF), communication relay, electro-optical/Infrared (EO/IR) sensor, and an automatic identification system (AIS). The EO/IR sensor generates full-motion video and offers increased situational awareness in both day and low-light conditions. It can be optionally equipped with a maritime radar and a COBRA mine detector to meet future operational needs of maritime and ground forces.