The US Navy is likely to share development costs of the four-bladed version of the Northrop Grumman RQ-8A Fire Scout unmanned rotor aircraft with the US Army.

The navy has long deemed the RQ-8A's three-blade rotor as underpowered for its future role aboard the Littoral Combat Ship and selection by the US Army in early September of the four-bladed vehicle for its Future Combat System (FCS) programme has led to initial talks on possible common strategies for the RQ-8B acquisition, including an army-navy teaming plan.

Paul Meyer, Northrop Grumman vice-president for business strategy, air combat systems, confirmed the company is in negotiations with the navy on buying the RQ-8B. Northrop Grumman is partnered on Fire Scout with Schweizer.

The RQ-8B's improved lifting capability adds 226kg (500lb) of maximum take-off weight capacity and 227 litres (60 USgal) of fuel storage compared with the RQ-8A. The army's configuration also adds Joint Tactical Radio System capability and a multi-mission radar and sensor payload, but removes the RQ-8A's three ARC-210 radios and light harpoon ship restraint.

The navy's new plans appear to continue a year-long revival for the Fire Scout programme, which only a year ago had been targeted to expire at the end of a three-year development and low-rate initial production phase.

Source: Flight International