[Avionics Today 12-26-2014] The MQ-8C unmanned helicopter has completed its latest round of testing, a series of ship-based flights during a five-day trial period off the Va. coast. According to the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), the latest testing focused on evaluating the MQ-8C's launch and recovery procedures before it is scheduled to undergo operational testing in 2015.
The MQ-8C Fire Scout conducts test operations aboard USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109) Dec. 17 off the coast of Virginia. During the five-day underway period, the MQ-8C completed its first ship-based flights to prepare for operational test in 2015. Photo: Northrop Grumman.
“By better understanding ship operations, we will have a smoother transition into operational test,” said Capt. Jeff Dodge, Fire Scout program manager. “This exercise gives us insight into operating from an air-capable ship and will help us mitigate any risk associated with the system.”
The MQ-8C is the larger upgrade to the existing MQ-8B variant, which was first deployed in 2009. NAVAIR reports that the C variant can fly nearly twice as long and carry three times the payload as its predecessor due to its larger airframe. The Navy is planning to use the MQ-8C in tandem with the manned MH-60 helicopter to extend the range and endurance of its ship-based operations.
NAVAIR plans to procure a total of 40 MQ-8Cs.