The Navy announced this week that it has completed key tests of two unmanned aerial vehicles: the new MQ-8C Fire Scout helicopter and the future MQ-25 Stingray aerial refueler.
Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) said April 11 that the MQ-8C finished its first test period aboard a Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), the USS Montgomery (LCS-8). The tests, including a first flight on the Montgomery on April 5, occurred off the coast of California and helped verify that the MQ-8C can operate safely aboard an LCS, NAVAIR said.
The Navy has said that testing will resume aboard the Montgomery, an Independence-class variant, in the fall and will also occur on the USS Little Rock (LCS-9), a Freedom-class variant, on the East Coast in the fall.
The MQ-8C, a larger, longer-endurance variant of the Northrop Grumman [NOC] MQ-8B unmanned surveillance helicopter, is slated to achieve an initial operational capability in the summer of 2018 and be deployed aboard LCS.
Separately, NAVAIR said the MQ-25 program has completed a demonstration that showed how an aircraft carrier will control the carrier-based UAV. During the April 11 test, which occurred at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, the first build of the MD-5 Unmanned Carrier Aviation Mission Control System commanded and sent data to a Mobile Aviation Interoperability Lab truck, which was simulating a UAV.
The Navy plans to release a draft request for proposals for the MQ-25 air segment this spring. A final RFP will follow this summer, and a development contract will be awarded to one company in 2018.
Four firms – Boeing [BA], General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI), Lockheed Martin [LMT] and Northrop Grumman – received one-year contracts last fall to refine concepts for the MQ-25 drone.