Northrop Grumman has begun flight testing its MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter at its Moss Point manufacturing site in Mississippi.
The flight tests, which operate form the Trent Lott International Airport adjacent to the Moss Point site, are a major milestone in the MQ-8C’s development, said the company.
The MQ-8C Fire Scout is a modified Bell 407 helicopter which can take off and land autonomously and stay in the air for 11 hours. It is designed to provide reconnaissance, and fire support to ground, air and sea forces.
The US Navy recently completed the first operational test and evaluation of the MQ-8C Fire Scout on board the USS Coronado. That test aircraft has now logged more than 1,500 flight hours.
Melissa Packwood, program director for Fire Scout at Northrop Grumman, said, “Building on our recent announcement of new production capabilities at Moss Point and a 40% increase in employment there, the ability to conduct MQ-8C Fire Scout flight tests where the production occurs will bring new efficiencies and effectiveness to our local operations and improve our ability to serve the US Navy.”
The 101,000ft² Moss Point site was opened in 2006.
Development of the MQ-8C Fire Scout began in May 2010, and the aircraft made its maiden flight in October 2013. The US Navy plans to acquire 30 MQ-8Cs.