Northrop Grumman Corporation's Integrated Systems
sector and subcontractor teammate
Schweizer Aircraft Corp. have successfully tested a four-blade
rotor upgrade that will increase the payload capacity, speed,
range, altitude and endurance of the U.S. Navy RQ-8A Fire Scout
vertical takeoff and landing unmanned air vehicle (UAV) system.
The upgrade is compatible with the existing Fire Scout engine
and transmission, and requires no major mechanical or structural
changes to the airframe. Fire Scout currently uses a three-blade
The Northrop Grumman/Schweizer team conducted ground, hover,
taxi and flight evaluation of the four-bladed rotor hub mounted on
a Schweizer Model 333 helicopter at Schweizer's Horseheads, N.Y.,
facility during the last week of March. To date, the team has
conducted six flights with the aircraft reaching speeds up to 90
knots and altitudes up to 1,500 feet.
"These test flights mark the latest success in what has been
flawless flight test program for the Fire Scout system," said T.
Scott Winship, Northrop Grumman's Fire Scout program manager.
"Since we began our test program last May, the U.S. Navy/Northrop
Grumman team has conducted 40 successful test flights."
Preparations are being made to begin shipboard testing in April at
the Webster Field UAV test facility at Naval Air Station Patuxent
River, Md., he added.
According to Winship, the continuing flight test
program has successfully demonstrated Fire Scout's ability to take
off, fly, navigate and land autonomously while collecting and
imagery from its onboard sensor payload. Flight tests to
demonstrate laser targeting and designation are scheduled in May. A
weapons delivery demonstration is planned for later this year.
Fully autonomous, Fire Scout can fly at altitudes up to 20,000
feet. Its advanced payload can provide intelligence,
reconnaissance, surveillance and precise targeting information to
tactical units either onboard ship or deployed in the field.
The air vehicle's communications suite provides a simultaneous
voice/data communications relay capability that reaches much
farther than current "line of sight" systems.