The Navy plans to launch a competition early next year for a radar system that will deploy on the MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter, the service’s program manager said Wednesday.

Capt. Jeff Dodge of Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) said the Navy is aiming to issue the request for proposals (RFP) in the first quarter of 2015, but is still working through the requirements.

The Fire Scout MQ-8C. Photo by Northrop Grumman.
The Fire Scout MQ-8C. Photo by Northrop Grumman.

The Navy has been experimenting with a Telephonics Corporation DPY 4 radar on the MQ-8B Fire Scout, a smaller version of the aircraft that has been operational for several years, but wants to “size” the radar “up a little” for the MQ-8C, Dodge said.

NAVAIR is seeking something similar to the Telephonics product for maritime search that will operate in synthetic aperture and inverse synthetic aperture modes, with motion tracking capability, Dodge said.

“We are also looking for something that is relatively off the shelf, but has some of the modern capability,” he told reporters.

The goal is to maximize the range within the weight and power limitations for operating on the MQ-8C.

“We are trying to balance all that out,” he said.

The Fire Scouts are designed to conduct intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance missions. The Navy has also tested a laser guided rocket on the aircraft to make it strike capable.

The MQ-8C doubles the range and flight time of the MQ-8B.

Northrop Grumman [NOC] is the prime contractor for both versions. The Navy plans to deploy them on the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), as well as the follow-on version of the vessel referred to for the time being as the Modified LCS.

The Navy has received two test MQ-8Cs and one for operations as part of its plan to buy 40.

The Navy on Tuesday flew an MQ-8C off an Arleigh Burke-class (DDG-51) destroyer, the first time the new aircraft have been tested on ship. The test took place on the USS Jason Dunham (DDG-109).

Dodge described the test as an opportunity to assess it at sea and does not necessarily signal an intention to deploy on that ship class. He said, however, the aircraft are designed to fly off any ship that supports aviation.

“We’re designing the system so it can go on any air-capable ship in the Navy,” Dodge said. The Navy is hoping the MQ-8C will reach initial operational capability by 2016.

The Fire Scout C is based on Bell Helicopter’s 407 airframe. Bell is a division of Textron [TXT].