Northrop Grumman Corporation recently began flight tests for MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter produced in Moss Point at the Trent Lott International Airport in Jackson County, Mississippi.
Northrop Grumman’s Moss Point facility is key to producing and testing the MQ-8C Fire Scout, the U.S. Navy’s newest autonomous helicopter that is bringing increased speed, endurance and payload capacity to distributed maritime operations.
The U.S. Navy recently completed initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) aboard its Independence-class littoral combat ship, USS Coronado (LCS 4), for the MQ-8C Fire Scout, which has over 1,500 program flight hours. The aircraft is a modified Bell 407 helicopter that is produced in Moss Point and supports quality manufacturing jobs in Mississippi.
“Building on Northrop Grumman’s recent announcement of new production capabilities in Moss Point and a 40 percent increase in employment at the site, the ability to now 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 U.S. Navy,” said Melissa Packwood, program director, Fire Scout, Northrop Grumman.
During the IOT&E conducted off the coast of Southern California, the MQ-8C Fire Scout performed several mission scenarios aboard USS Coronado. These operations are an important milestone for the LCS and Fire Scout programs, and demonstrated cohesion between the surface and aviation platforms.
The U.S. Navy Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 1 and Coronado conducted simulated engagements to evaluate Fire Scout’s role in target identification, intelligence gathering and surface warfare operations. The testing also focused on developing practices for simultaneously operating and maintaining both the MQ-8C Fire Scout and the MH-60S Sea Hawk. Results confirmed that while it requires extensive planning and coordination across the ship, simultaneous operations can be conducted.
The first ship-based flight of the MQ-8C Fire Scout occurred aboard USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109) in December 2014.