April 17 (UPI) -- The MQ-8C Fire Scout, an unmanned helicopter being built for the U.S. Navy, took its first flight from a littoral combat ship earlier in April.
The sea trials took place off the coast of California aboard the Independence-class vessel USS Montgomery, and follows an earlier flight test aboard guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunman. Manufacturer Northrop Grumman says the event puts the aircraft one step closer to full operational capability.
"Fire Scout's autonomous technology coupled with the range and endurance of the MQ-8C airframe is truly a game-changer," Northrop Grumman's Leslie Smith said in a press release. "When the MQ-8C deploys with its advanced AESA maritime radar, the U.S. Navy will have unmatched situational awareness and the ability to provide sea control in any contested maritime environment."
The MQ-8C Fire Scout is marketed as the Navy's next-generation autonomous rotorcraft. Its airframe is based on the commercial Bell 407. The aircraft is designed to perform intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.
"We plan to have the MQ-8C Fire Scout deployed aboard multiple ships in the near future giving the fleet the persistent intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting asset they need," program manager Capt. Jeff Dodge added.
The Fire Scout's flight from a littoral combat ship, an offshore combatant vessel, marks the end of its Dynamic Interface testing phase.