The MQ-8C, with a modified commercial Bell Helicopter airframe, can provide three times the payload and double the endurance at extended ranges compared to the current MQ-8B, which is already in operational use on frigates and in Afghanistan.
"The endurance upgrade doubles the time on station of the MQ-8 system and will help reduce the workload for the ship's crew by cutting the number of times the crew will need to be in flight quarters," said George Vardoulakis, vice president, medium range tactical systems for Northrop Grumman.
"Ground and flight testing are the next steps in meeting the urgent requirement for maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Testing on the Naval Air Systems Command test range provides us with extended air space to conduct and demonstrate long endurance and systems testing in a maritime environment."
The MQ-8C is used for surveillance, reconnaissance and intelligence missions and for cargo delivery.