The U.S. Navy has awarded Northrop Grumman a contract valued at more than $71 million to produce six additional next-generation Fire Scout unmanned helicopters.
The Fire Scout endurance upgrade, designated the MQ-8C and based on Bell Helicopter’s 407, will provide ship commanders with increased range, endurance and payload capacity over the current MQ-8B variant.
The Navy plans to purchase a total of 30 aircraft under a rapid development effort. Northrop Grumman is currently under contract to produce 14 Fire Scouts that are scheduled to begin deploying in 2014.
“This contract provides significant momentum for the work Northrop Grumman and its supply chain partners are doing to meet the Navy’s requirements,” said George Vardoulakis, vice president for tactical unmanned systems with Northrop Grumman’s Aerospace Systems sector. “Our entire team is focused on delivering this game-changing capability on time, on cost and with unquestionable quality. Along with our industry partners – Bell, Rolls-Royce, Cubic and others – we are making significant progress in reducing cost, enabling us to achieve our affordability targets and provide the Navy with the absolute best value.”
Manufacturing and assembly operations of the new Fire Scout variant are well under way across the country, with airframe modifications being made at Bell’s facility in Ozark, Ala., and final assembly being completed at Northrop Grumman’s Unmanned Systems Center in Moss Point, Miss.