MQ–8 Fire Scout (MQ-8B/C)

Product Type:

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)

Using Service (US):

Navy

Program Status:

MQ-8B: Production Complete
MQ-8C: Development Phase

Prime Contractor:

Northrop Grumman Corporation

The MQ–8 Fire Scout

About the MQ-8 Fire Scout:





The Northrop Grumman MQ-8B Fire Scout is an Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) vertical take-off and landing Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (VTUAV). The Fire Scout provides real-time ISR data to tactical users. The baseline MQ-8B can accomplish missions including over-the-horizon (OTH) tactical reconnaissance, classification, targeting and laser designation, and battle management (including communications relay).

The MQ-8B Fire Scout has a four-bladed rotor and is powered by a single Rolls-Royce M250-C20W turboshaft engine (the M250-C47B powers the MQ-8C) and launches and recovers vertically, and can operate from air-capable vessels such as the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), as well as confined area land bases. Interoperability is achieved through the use of Tactical Control System (TCS) software in the ground control station, and through the use of the Tactical Common Data Link (TCDL).

The MQ-8B is capable of continuous operations providing coverage as much as 110 nautical miles (127 miles/204 km) from the launch site. The baseline configuration with a FLIR Systems BRITE Star II electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensors and a laser pointer/laser rangefinder, enables the Fire Scout to locate, track, and designate tactical targets in support of Navy strike platforms.

The MQ-8B was developed from the RQ-8A Fire Scout VUAS, which was based on the Schweizer Model 333 manned commercial helicopter. In February 2000, Northrop Grumman won the contract to develop the RQ-8A for the U.S. Navy under the VTUAV program. Low-rate initial production commenced in May 2001 and flight testing began the following year. In August 2005, the Fire Scout was redesignated from RQ-8 to MQ-8 to reflect its multi-role capability.

The MQ-8B industry team includes Cubic Corporation (communications), FLIR Systems (BRITE Star II payload) General Electric Fanuc Intelligent Platforms (vehicle management computer), Kearfott (guidance and navigation), Lockheed Martin (ship integration) Raytheon Company (tactical control system) Rockwell Collins – avionics Rolls-Royce (engine), Sierra Nevada Corporation (unmanned common automatic recovery system), and Schweizer Aircraft Corporation - now Sikorsky Military Completions Center (airframe).

On April 23, 2012, Northrop Grumman was awarded a contract to build a minimum of 28 new MQ-8C Fire-X Endurance UAVs based on the Bell 407 airframe. The new 'C' variant provides greater range, endurance and payload capacity. Under the terms of the contract, Northrop Grumman will produce a total of eight UAVs within an amount not to exceed $262 million. Final assembly of the new MQ-8C variant will take place at Northrop Grumman's Unmanned Systems Center in Moss Point, Mississippi. The Navy plans to purchase the 28+ UAVs in the FY 2012-15 timeframe.

On October 31, 2013, the MQ-8C made its first flight at Naval Base Ventura County in California. The MQ-8C is approximately 41.4 feet long (9.7 feet longer than the MQ-8B variant) and has a cruise speed of 161 mph, (34 mph faster that the MQ-8B). The MQ-8C has an endurance of up to 14 hours, which compares to 8 hours for the MQ-8B. The MQ-8C has an internal payload capacity of 1,000 pounds compared to the MQ-8B's 600 pounds. Also, MQ-8C has a maximum sling load capacity of 2,650 pounds.

The Navy plans to purchase a total of 168 MQ-8 production units through FY 2032. Of this figure, 23 are MQ-8Bs purchased during FYs 2007-2011. The remaining 145 are MQ-8C models. Procurement of MQ-8C production aircraft will commence in FY 2019. Until then, MQ-8Cs are purchased with development funds.



Armament/Weapons:

None.



Price/Unit Cost:

The unit cost of the MQ-8C is $17.14 million in FY 2014 (flyaway cost) of which the airframe makes up $12.58 million. In comparison, the MQ-8B had a unit cost of $10.81 million in FY 2011.



Program Cost:

The total procurement cost of the MQ-8 VTUAV program is $2.55 billion (estimated by the DoD) + $0.61 billion in research and development (RDT&E) funds, which means the total estimated program cost is $3.16 billion (numbers are aggregated annual funds spent over the life of the program and no price/inflation adjustment was made).



Mission/Role:

Provides real-time Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) data to tactical users without the use of manned aircraft. The MQ-8 locates, tracks, and designates tactical targets in support of Navy strike platforms. Also, the Fire Scout performs battle damage assessment missions.



FY 2014 DoD Program:

FY 2014 funds 2 MQ-8C aircraft, ship ancillary equipment, training equipment, and associated support. Aircraft configuration includes the Stores Management System, Automated Identification System, and Full Motion Video broadcast system.



FY 2015 DoD Program:

FY 2015 through FY 2019 funds MQ-8 control stations, ancillary equipment, training equipment, support equipment, technical support and logistics.

For more information, click to see the FY 2015 MQ-8 Budget.




Source: U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), Northrop Grumman Corp.,
and Rolls-Royce plc.

Specifications Armament DoD Spending FY2015 Budget

Last Update: May 29, 2014.

By Joakim Kasper Oestergaard /// (jkasper@bga-aeroweb.com)

External Resources:



Northrop Grumman: MQ-8 Fire Scout
FLIR Systems: BRITE Star II Sensor Payload

YouTube: MQ-8 Fire Scout | YouTube Videos

Fact Sheet: MQ-8B Fire Scout | Fact Sheet
Fact Sheet: MQ-8C Fire Scout | Fact Sheet
Brochure: MQ-8B Fire Scout | Brochure

Total MQ-8 VTUAV Program Cost:

 $3.16 billion  ($2.55B procurement + $0.61B RDT&E)

MQ-8 VTUAV Procurement Objective:

  175 aircraft  (168 production + 7 development)

MQ-8 U.S. Defense Budget Charts:

DoD Spending on the MQ-8 Fire Scout in FY 2011, FY 2012, FY 2013, FY 2014 and FY 2015
DoD Purchases of MQ-8 Fire Scout UAVs in FY 2011, FY 2012, FY 2013, FY 2014 and FY 2015
Defense Budget Data

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DoD Spending, Procurement and RDT&E: FY 2011/12/13 + Budget for FYs 2014 + 2015

DoD Defense Spending, Procurement, Modifications, Spares, and RDT&E for the MQ–8 Fire Scout

Download Official U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Budget Data:

MQ–8 Purchases (NAVY) MQ-8 Modifications (NAVY)
MQ-8 Purchases (SOCOM) Aircraft Spares and Parts (NAVY)
Specifications

Aircraft Specifications: MQ–8B Fire Scout

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Primary Function: Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR)
Prime Contractor: Northrop Grumman Corp.
Power Plant: 1x Rolls-Royce M250-C20W turboshaft engine
Length: 31.7 ft (9.66 m)
Height: 9.7 ft (2.96 m)
Rotor Diameter: 27.5 ft (8.4 m)
Width: Fuselage: 6.2 ft (1.89 m)
Weight: Zero fuel weight: 2,073 lbs (940 kg)
Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW): 3,150 lbs (1,429 kg)
Payload: 600 lbs (242 kg) including electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor and laser designator
Sensors & Equipment:
EO/IR BRITE Star II gimbaled sensor payload
UHF/VHF Communications Relay
COBRA Mine Detector
Airborne Communications Package
Speed: Cruise: 110 kts/127 mph (204 km/h)
Service Ceiling: 20,000 ft (6,096 m)
Range: 110 nm/127 miles (204 km) combat radius
Endurance: 8 hours with baseline payload and 5+ hours with max payload
Armament/Weapons: None
Price/Unit Cost: $10.81 million (2011)
First Flight: 2002 (RQ-8A)
Deployed: September 2009


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