Flight tests of the Navy’s new MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned surveillance aircraft are going well, but have been slowed by the limited availability of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) to host those tests, according to a program official.
Navy Capt. Jeff Dodge, program manager for Navy and Marine Corps Multi-Mission Tactical Unmanned Air Systems, said the MQ-8C has flown more than 400 hours and has experienced “very few problems in test.” But because LCS is in “very high demand,” Fire Scout tests aboard the ship have been slowed, delaying achievement of the MQ-8C’s initial operational capability (IOC) from 2015 to late 2016, Dodge said at an April 13 press briefing at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Exposition.
The Navy plans to buy 40 air vehicles and deploy the MQ-8C aboard LCS. The MQ-8C, whose prime contractor is Northrop Grumman [NOC], has more endurance and payload room than the MQ-8B version, which the Navy has flown for years to support overseas military operations.
Dodge said that discussions about possibly exporting the MQ-8C are in the early stages but that “several parties” from other countries have expressed interested in the aircraft.