Next generation unmanned helicopter moves step closer to deployment.

A US developed autonomous helicopter – capable of taking off and landing from warships – has moved a step closer to deployment following successful sea trials off the coast of California.

The MQ-8C Fire Scout being launched from the littoral combat ship the USS Montgomery

Northrop Grumman’s MQ-8C Fire Scout, which has been undergoing a variety of tests over the last couple of years, was launched from the littoral combat ship the USS Montgomery earlier this month. This marked the first time the aircraft had been launched from a ship of this kind.

The helicopter, which is based on the airframe used by the popular Bell 407 manned-helicopter, was earlier tested test aboard the guided missile destroyer, USS Jason Dunham.

According to Northrop Grumman, its ability to autonomously take-off and land from any aviation capable ship and from both prepared and unprepared landing zones mark the aircraft out as a significant advance.

“Fire Scout’s successful testing aboard USS Montgomery and USS Dunham proves its capability to fly from multiple air capable ships,” said Capt. Jeff Dodge, program manager, Fire Scout, Naval Air Systems Command. “We plan to have the MQ-8C Fire Scout deployed aboard multiple ships in the near future giving the fleet the persistent intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting asset they need.”

Specifications

  • Length 12.6m
  • Width 2.7m
  • Height 3.3m
  • Rotor Diameter 10.7m
  • Performance Speed 135 knots (max)
  • Range/Endurance 1,227 nmi/12 hrs