US Navy adds classified payload to MQ-8B Fire Scout

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The US Navy has disclosed that a classified intelligence payload is now flying on the Northrop Grumman MQ-8B Fire Scout.

Northrop was awarded a $1 million contract earlier this month to integrate a payload called Twister on the MQ-8B - an unmanned helicopter based on the Sikorsky S330 - according to an acquisition notice.

The notice did not identify what specific function the Twister payload performs.

 © US Navy

One of the "interested vendors" for Twister identified on the government's website for acquisition notices was US-headquartered FLIR Systems, which makes electro-optical and infrared sensors. FLIR currently supplies the Star Safire III sensor for the Fire Scout.

Northrop declined to provide specifics about Twister, referring all questions to the navy.

But the navy also refused to release details about the new payload's mission capabilities, which it described as classified.

However, the navy did release a general statement, stating that Twister "improves Fire Scout's efficiency by accelerating critical kill-chain elements of find, fix, track and assess".