The MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter makes its first flight Oct. 31 from Naval Base Ventura County Point Mugu, Calif. (Northrop Grumman)
The new MQ-8C variant of the Navy’s Fire Scout unmanned helicopter has taken its first flight, according to Naval Air Systems Command.
The first flight, which was made in restricted airspace and lasted seven minutes, tested autonomous control systems. A second flight was flown in a pattern and reached an altitude of 500 feet.
“It is a big accomplishment for the integrated government and industry team to fly this air vehicle for the first time,” Fire Scout program manager Capt. Patrick Smith said. “The MQ-8C will require fewer aircraft [than the MQ-8B] to operate at maximum performance and will meet the U.S. Africa and Special Operation Commands urgent needs requirement.”
The MQ-8C is larger than the MQ-8B, with a range of 150 miles and a payload capacity of 700 pounds.
The MQ-8C will face initial shipboard testing on Navy guided missile destroyers, but they also be tested on the littoral combat ship, NAVAIR said. Initial operating capability is scheduled for 2016, but may occur as early as 2014.