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New Fire Scout variant on way

April 25, 2012 at 3:15 PM

SAN DIEGO, April 25 (UPI) -- A new variant of Fire Scout unmanned helicopter -- with greater range, endurance and payload -- is to be produced by Northrop Grumman for the U.S. Navy.

The variant, a product of an endurance upgrade program designated MQ-8C, will use the Bell 407 helicopter frame and will be assembled at the company facility in Moss Point, Miss.

"Through our company-funded Fire-X demonstration effort we proved that using the mature unmanned systems architecture developed for the MQ-8B Fire Scout paired with the Bell 407 helicopter would provide greater capability efficiently and affordably," said Duke Dufresne, vice president and general manager for unmanned systems.

"By using systems that have many years of development already invested in them we can meet the Navy's needs quickly."

The initial order is for eight of the aircraft at a total cost not to exceed $262 million. The Navy, however, plans for a total of 28 of the unmanned helicopters to be used for intelligence gathering.

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