SAN DIEGO, Aug. 14 (UPI) -- Aerospace company Northrop Grumman said its Fire Scout unmanned surveillance vehicles passed the 5,000 flight-hour milestone during service in Afghanistan.
The U.S. Navy in 2011 contracted Northrop to support the deployment of the MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopter. The defense contractor said the system logged 5,084 hours of flight time in its 28 months of deployment.
"Navy commanders value Fire Scout's capabilities and recognized early on that a larger helicopter would allow the system to fly longer and carry even larger intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance payloads," George Vardoulakis, vice president for medium-range tactical systems, said in a statement Tuesday.
The Fire Scout provides real-time surveillance and supports efforts to combat improvised explosive devices on the ground. U.S. military officials said the surveillance platform is ideal for land or sea deployment.
Northrop said it was commissioned by the Navy to build eight updated Fire Scouts designated MQ-8C. The company said the updated model would be able to fly longer and carry a heavier payload when it's ready for operation next year.
The MQ-8B has a maximum flight endurance of eight hours.