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.
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