The Northrop Grumman MQ-8C Fire-X vertical take-off unmanned air vehicle (VTUAV) has turned on its engines for the first time, in another step in preparation for first flight.
The engine run lasted for 10min, the first of several such runs. “They’ll be doing that a couple more times this week, and then we’ll send all the information to the [US] Navy in preparation for first flight,” says Northrop.
First flight is tentatively scheduled for early to mid-October, although an exact date has not yet been determined, and such tests are often delayed for minor system tweaks.
“The ground turns are basically the last thing you do before you go up,” says the company.
With its first flight, the aircraft will enter a six-month flight test regime before delivery to the USN, which intends to deploy the aircraft at sea shortly after. A second aircraft is scheduled to join the programme in the week starting 30 September.
The MC-8C uses software derived from the earlier MQ-8B Fire Scout, which has been deployed both at sea and in Afghanistan several times. While the MQ-8B is based on the Schweizer 333 airframe, range and payload concerns led Northrop to select the Bell 407 airframe for C-models.
The aircraft are the navy’s first large VTUAVs.