The U.S. Navy and Northrop Grumman have begun flight testing of the MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter’s Leonardo AN/ZPY-8 multi-mode surveillance radar. The AN/ZPY-8 will provide the Fire Scout UAS (unmanned aerial system) with active electronically scanned array (AESA) capabilities allowing it to detect a variety of targets.
The first test flight operated from Webster Outlying Field, an annex of Naval Air Station Patuxent River and home to the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division. Prior to this, several weeks of ground tests were conducted, and further trials continue as the Navy and Northrop Grumman consider mission expansion opportunities for the platform.
Northrop Grumman has so far delivered 32 of 38 MQ-8Cs to the Navy, all of which will be retrofitted with the Leonardo AN/ZPY-8 radar. The MQ-8C achieved initial operational capability in June 2019 and is scheduled for its first deployment in 2021.
Melissa Packwood, program manager of tactical autonomous systems at Northrop Grumman, commented: “The AN/ZPY-8 radar significantly increases Fire Scout’s detection and tracking of targets. The ability to simultaneously employ multiple modes supports U.S. Navy intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance requirements. This increased capability enables Fire Scout to extend ranges to meet emerging requirements.”