The MQ-8C Fire Scout, which was launched last week, is the U.S. Navy’s latest combat drone to hit the skies and provide aerial surveillance, reconnaissance, situational awareness, aerial fire support, and precision targeting support to ground, air, and sea units.

Last week the U.S. Navy Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 22 began using the MQ-8C Fire Scout alongside the MH-60 Seahawk manned helicopter making it the first on the East Coast to do so.

The MQ-8C Fire Scout’s main purpose is to provide radar surveillance with its multi-spectrum targeting system. The multi-spectrum targeting system is a camera that is capable of reading light, heat, and electrical signatures to find anything that might be of interest.

The drone will allow the manned boats to see beyond the horizon and look for any possible targets too small to see from the ship. The Fire Scout can fly up to 12 hours on an ISR mission, something that would take a heavy toll on a helicopter crew.

The development of the MQ-8C was announced back in 2010 under the name Fire-X and was used to demonstrate the unmanned cargo capabilities of the drones. Three years later, the first Fire Scout drone was delivered to the Navy with various tests spanning the next few years until 2019 when it was declared mission capable.

Northrop Grumman MQ-8C Fire Scout

MQ-8C Fire Scout combat drone is capable of flying at speeds of up to 160 miles per hour and can fly for up to 15 hours at a time. The fully autonomous drone is powered by a Rolls-Royce 250-C47B engine capable of 813 horsepower at the shaft and can carry a payload of up to 2,950 pounds. The drone has a rotor diameter of 36.6 feet, a height of 10.9 feet, and a length of 34.7 feet.

The MQ-8C Fire Scout is a combination of the Bell 407 manned helicopter, which first went into production in 1995 with the same Rolls-Royce 250-C47B engine and the MQ-8B Fire Scout from Northrop Grumman, which first went into production in 2000. The MQ-8C uses the avionics from the MQ-8B and the larger airframe from the Bell 407.

Photo: Brenton Poyser

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