FIRES SCOUT MOVES CLOSER TO OpEval
By Julian Nettlefold
25 Feb 09. A recent U.S. Navy modification award to a previous firm fixed-price contract for the procurement of three VTUAV systems of Northrop Grumman Corporation’s MQ-8B Fire Scout Vertical Takeoff and Landing Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (VTUAV) move the Program closer to Operational Evaluation (OpEval. BATTLESPACE met Joe Emerson, Program Director, FCS Class IV UAV at AUSA to discuss progress on the Program.
“This award, for an amount not to exceed $40m, is the last of three planned low-rate initial production (LRIP) buys.” Emerson told BATTLESPACE “The Navy authorized an LRIP 1 contract to Northrop Grumman for the Fire Scout VTUAV program in June 2007. The program achieved a series of program milestones and the Navy awarded an LRIP 2 contract in September 2008. Under this LRIP 3 contract, the company will provide the Navy with three complete MQ-8B Fire Scouts with electro-optical payloads, three ground control stations, three light harpoon grids, three UAV common automatic recovery systems and six portable electronic display devices. Work is expected to be completed in March 2011.”
“Since my visit to Rancho Bernado last year, the Fire Scout Program has certainly taken shape?”
“Yes, the enhancements we made to the Fire Scout in our Second Generation MQ-8B iteration has significantly enhanced the capability of the air vehicle,” Emerson said
Building on the successful RQ-8A flight test program Northrop has made significant enhancements to the MQ-8B which include:
1. Increasing time on station to 8 hours at sea level with a 100lb payload. (Endurance with baseline EO/IR payload is 8+ hours. USN requirement is 5 hours on station at 110 NM. FS meets that rqmt.)
2. Increasing fuel load by 60 gallons to 190 gallons which gives a range of 200kms.
3. Improving supportability
4. Continuing software development
5. All Fire Scout air vehicles now have the four bladed rotor with and enhanced airfoil main rotor
6. An improved Rolls-Royce 250 family engine with over 160 million flight hours.
7. Improved the tail rotor authority
8. Additional equipment volume
9. A new aft payload bay.
“One of the main improvements has been in the provision of reliable systems which means much lower maintenance costs compared to a manned helicopter.” Emerson continued. The reliability of Fire Scout can partly be attributed to the simplicity of the airframe.”
The aircraft does not require the following:
1. Crew support systems.
2. Fire suppression system.
3. Auxiliary drive gear boxes.
7. Fire control radar.
“What are the current requirements for Fire Scout?”
“The U.S. Navy requires 12 air vehicles with Low Rate Initial Production. LRIPP production is now taking place with 3 air vehicles a year building up to Full Rate Production in 2010. Upon completion of EMD the Fire Scout will be deployed on the USS McInerny, (FFG-8) followed by the LCS fleet. The Army Program for FCS Class IV UAV is slightly behind the Navy, they require a total of 32 air vehicles per Brigade, a total of 15 Brigades, giving a total of 504 air vehicles. We have developed our Fire Scout manufacturing facility at Moss Point with the most advanced manufacturing techniques with ample room for expansion. ”
The Program Overview for FCS Class IV is:
1. First flight 2nd Quarter 2011
2. Milestone C – Long lead for LRIP 2013
3. Initial Operational capability (IOC) 2015.
4. Full Rate Production 2015
“Which payloads have been selected?”
“The Navy has selected the Flir Brite Star II EO/IR and Northrop Grumman Cobra mine detection payloads, whilst the Army has chosen the Northrop ASTAMIDS EO/IR for mine detection and surveillance. The Army version has an integrated computer whilst the Navy version has a Payload i/F (interface.) Unit. The Army has chosen the Northrop Grumman STARLIte sensor whilst the Navy has yet to decide. The Army datalin