Northrop Grumman has announced more details about its RQ-8B Fire Scout vertical take-off unmanned air vehicle (UAV) to operate supply missions for the US Army.

The service selected Fire Scout in August 2003 as its Class 4 unmanned air system for its Future Combat System (FCS), with the UAV intended to be a key element in its tactical intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting architecture, providing real-time imagery and data collection and dissemination at the brigade level.

Mike Fuqua, director of Fire Scout business development, said at the show yesterday that the US Army was particularly interested in using the vehicle in the communications relay role. With this in mind, Northrop Grumman planned to add enhanced position location reporting systems and radios to the UAV.

However, Northrop Grumman also plans to demonstrate to the Army this year a supply pod that could be mounted on the RQ-8B to carry ammunition or supplies. The pod would be just over 1m long, around 50cm wide and 37cm tall, with the UAV able to carry two. On arrival at destination, it would be detached by pressing a single button.

Another possible future use would be as a personnel rescue vehicle: "I don't think it would be very difficult, for instance, to put some platform or handholds on to the aircraft to allow someone to ride it out."

The RF-8B is also slated for US Navy service, supplementing SH-60 Seahawks on board vessels, notably the planned Littoral Combat Ship. Northrop Grumman plans to conduct beyond line of sight tests at Yuma, Arizona later this year and have an RF-8 on board a US Navy ship next year.

Source: Flight Daily News