Northrop Grumman has delivered a second MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter to the US Navy, just weeks after the first Fire Scout completed initial flight tests.

The two aircraft, which are based at Naval Base Ventura County at Point Magu in California, are expected to be ready to conduct operational missions in 2014, according to a Northrop media release.

MQ-8C Northrop

Northrop Grumman's first MQ-8C Fire Scout at Naval Base Ventura County at Point Magu in California. Northrop.

The company has contracts to build 14 of the aircraft, although the Navy has said it may purchase a total of 30 Fire Scouts.

The MQ-8C is based on the Bell 407 light helicopter and will be able to fly for up to 12h or carry up to 1,179kg (2,600lb) of payload, Northrop says.

The aircraft may operate from DDG-class guided missile destroyers or support missions carried out by smaller littoral combat ships, Northrop has said.

The first aircraft was delivered to the Navy in July and conducted engine tests in September before completing its first flight on 31 October.

Fire Scouts are manufactured at Northrop’s unmanned systems centre in Moss Point, Mississippi.

They are designed to have twice the endurance and carry three times as much payload as the MQ-8B, an earlier version based on the airframe of the Schweizer 333.