Potential weaponization of the MQ-8C

US Navy to prototype Northrop Grumman MQ-8C with weapons –link

Source: Flight Global

Article Headlines

  • The US Navy (USN) intends to negotiate and award a contract to Bell to engineer an aft-cabin door redesign of the Northrop Grumman MQ-8C Fire Scout to accommodate potential weapon stores
  • The UAV could have a similar weapons payload to the USN’s Sikorsky MH-60 Seahawk, submarine and ship-hunting manned helicopter which carries torpedoes, Hellfire missiles and Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System rockets
  • Also, the service announced it intends to add Link 16 to the unmanned helicopter, integrating the communications terminal to the rotorcraft fleet over the next five years
  • Link 16 would allow the MQ-8C and MH-60 to directly to share information, including targeting data, instead of having to relay communications via a littoral combat ship

Overview & Comments

  • The US Navy declared IOC for the MQ-8C in June 2019, six years after flight trials commenced in 2013
  • With 38 MQ-8Cs planned for the US Navy, the platform is currently the largest operational unmanned rotary aircraft with other competitors trailing behind
  • Airbus’ VSR700 just recently completed its first fully unmanned flight while tethered to the ground and Leonardo’s SW-4 operating in optionally piloted mode
  • As UAS maritime operations grow and additional operational experience will be gained by the system more navies will be interested in larger rotary systems such as the MQ-8C to fill a current operational gap that cannot be closed by smaller systems such as Scheibel’s S-100 or fixed-wing maritime based UAS such as the RQ-21
  • One such Navy is the Japanese who has openly sought information for possible acquisition back in 2016

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