The US Navy is considering its options for the five funded Northrop Grumman RQ-8A FireScout unmanned air vehicles as the end of development, due for July next year, approaches. The USN scrapped plans for full-rate production, but still needs a tactical UAV system to complement its proposed littoral combat ship. The five RQ-8As are expected to go to NASF all on in 2004 for experiments and help train fighter pilots in UAV operations.

Northrop Grumman still plans a four-bladed main rotor for improved payload range performance and hopes to trial new payloads such as synthetic aperture radar and alternative electro-optical/infrared systems in support of potential programmes in Germany, Japan, Singapore, Spain and the UK.

Boeing has also contracted Northrop Grumman to look at Fire Scout as a possible adjunct for the US Army's Future Combat System, while the US Marine Corps plans to demonstrate its Cobra coastal mine-detection system on the RQ-8A next year.

Source: Flight International