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US Navy receives 1st upgraded Fire Scout unmanned helicopter

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The first MQ-8C Fire Scout delivered to the Naval Air Systems Command. A US Navy photo

SAN DIEGO (BNS): The US Navy is getting ready to flight test an upgraded MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned helicopter after receiving it from Northrop Grumman this month.

The company, which is the prime contractor for the MQ-8 programme, delivered the first refurbished MQ-8C system to the Navy earlier this month in preparation for ground and flight testing.

The upgrades carried out on the unmanned system have enhanced its endurance, range and payload.

Using a modified commercially available airframe, the upgraded MQ-8 system can provide commanders with three times the payload and double the endurance at extended ranges compared to the current MQ-8B variant, according to Northrop.

The upcoming tests will validate and mature the upgraded MQ-8 system for operational use.

The Navy at present deploys the MQ-8B variant on its frigates and in Afghanistan, to carry out intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

The seven metres long, three metres high Fire Scout can fly at 200 kilometers per hour at altitudes up to 6,000 meters. It has a range of 110 nautical miles.

The first deployment of the upgraded MQ-8 system with the MQ-8C Fire Scout aircraft will be in 2014, Northrop said.

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