AUVSI: Northrop close to completing Firescout weapon tests

Washington DC
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The Northrop Grumman MQ-8 Firescout has completed 11 of 12 launches of the BAE Systems Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System.

Testing should be completed shortly, says Capt Pat Smith, Naval Air System Command's program manager. Preliminary assessment shows positive results, he says. It would also be added to the larger C-model Firescout post 2016.

The US Navy will also be flight testing a mock-up of maritime radar next month. The actual radar will fly on the aircraft later.

The original MQ-8B will deploy on the USN's Littoral Combat Ships in late 2014, he says. It will also continue to be deployed onboard frigates but will also be migrated onto destroyers. Ultimately 24 original model airframes will be used to support the LCS ships.

But the Navy and Northrop are working on the larger MQ-8C, which is based on the Bell 407 airframe. The system ports the avionics of the B-model to the larger aircraft, but essential systems are the same. The Navy will buy 96 of the larger model.

The MQ-8C is expected to fly in early October. It will complete testing and should be ready for deployment in late-2014, Smith says.