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US Navy completes at-sea MQ-8C Fire Scout IOT&E

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The MQ-8C aboard USS Coronado. (US Navy)

The US Navy has announced the successful completion of a series of initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) tasks of the Northrop Grumman MQ-8C Fire Scout vertical takeoff UAS.

Conducted at-sea aboard the Austal-designed littoral combat ship (LCS) USS Coronado off the coast of southern California, the tests were designed to prove how the MQ-8C can operate from and integrate with the LCS and its systems, including an embarked manned MH-60S helicopter.

“The results, lessons learned, and recommendations reported on following this underway test period are absolutely invaluable to the future of the MQ-8C Fire Scout’s mission effectiveness and suitability to perform that mission,” project lead for the Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 1 (VX-1) detachment, Lt Cmdr Seth Ervin said a release.

The MQ-8C is based on the successful manned Bell 407 helicopter, and is a growth version of the much smaller MQ-8B which itself was derived from the manned Schweizer 333 helicopter. The USS Coronado deployed to the western Pacific with an MQ-8B in 2016.

Maintenance and cyber focused IOT&E tasks are expected to continue while the USS Coronado is alongside in San Diego.

The MQ-8C is expected to be a contender for the RAN’s Project SEA 129 Phase 6 requirement for an unmanned system to be embarked aboard Australia’s new SEA 5000 frigates from 2027.

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