This Helicopter Represents Another Big Breakthrough For The Navy's Drone Force

Photo: Northrop Grumman

Looking to compliment its evolving drone fleet, the Navy announced today that it’s signed a $17 million contract with Northrop Grumman to arm its fleet of MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopter drones.The LA Times reports the maker of the drone will install laser-guided missiles to target drug-runners, pirates, and battleships (via Pilot Online). Delivery of the weaponised ‘copter will begin within 15 months.

This will make the MQ-8B the first, sea-based, armed drone to enter the navy’s arsenal before the X-47B makes its full-time appearance, also in 2014. Between the two craft the Navy will be able to co totally pilot-less for virtually any type of mission it desires.

“It’s a very significant moment in naval history,” Mark L. Evans, a historian at the Naval History and Heritage Command told the LA Times. “The weaponization of this aircraft represents a quantum leap in technology compared to what has come before.”

The Fire Scout is controlled remotely by a pilot on a ship and at this point is rigged for observational purposes only.

The Navy has been perfecting the MQ-8 since 2006 and currently has 168 of the aircraft on order.

Check out the Fire Scout in action below.

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.