Remotely controlled helicopters could be delivering cargo to U.S. Marines in Afghanistan by this time next year. The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command (NASC) gave the go-ahead for urgent development of competing proposals from Boeing/Frontier Systems (using the A160T Hummingbird) and Lockheed Martin (based on the Kaman K-Max).
MQ-8 Fire Scout
Sikorsky will start certification testing on the S-434 light turbine single in January, thus postponing the target certification date to December next year.
Earlier this week at the Navy League Sea-Air-Space Exposition, Northrop Grumman and Bell Helicopter announced the joint development of a new high-capacity unmanned helicopter. Known as Fire-X, the machine is initially aimed at a U.S. Navy requirement for a medium-range unmanned air system that is expected to be announced next year. It has applications in several roles, including ISR and battlefield supply duties.
Northrop Grumman’s E-2D Advanced Hawkeye is currently undergoing carrier compatibility tests at the U.S. Navy’s Patuxent River dummy-deck facility in Maryland before its first venture to sea. Initial carrier trials are to begin in the first half of next year, the exact schedule depending on carrier availability. Here at the Dubai Airshow an operational U.S. Navy E-2C Hawkeye 2000 from the U.S.S. Nimitz is on display in the static area.
The Northrop Grumman MQ-8B Fire Scout, a vertical takeoff unmanned air system (VTUAS), began its first operational deployment with the U.S. Navy last month. Two vehicles are currently embarked on the guided-missile frigate U.S.S. McInerney (FFG 8) for a six-month cruise operating alongside a Sikorsky SH-60B on counter-drug operations in the eastern Pacific. Compatibility trials with the frigate got under way last December.
Northrop Grumman’s AN/ZPY-1 STARLite unmanned aerial vehicle radar begins tests with the U.S. Army next month aboard the General Atomics MQ-1C Sky Warrior ERMP. In October, the company is to deliver the first qualified production units.
The Schweizer 434 made its first flight on December 18 at Horseheads, N.Y., and deliveries to overseas military customers are scheduled to begin next month. A company spokeswoman declined to speculate on when the new light turbine single would gain U.S. certification. Schweizer announced this more powerful and updated $933,000 version of the 333 last year, as well as initial orders for 15 copies.
One of Northrop Grumman’s growing family of mine countermeasures has advanced to the flight-trial phase. The company installed the airborne surveillance, target acquisition and minefield detection system (ASTAMIDS) in a modified UH-1H Huey for its first flight, at Melbourne, Florida, on April 30, with the aim of achieving low-rate initial production next year.
Schweizer Aircraft (Booth No. 2040) yesterday unveiled the Sikorsky Schweizer 434, the company’s first new product since Sikorsky purchased the New York-based OEM in 2004. The Model 434 is a single-turbine helicopter designed primarily for flight training, law enforcement and light utility missions.
The U.S. Navy revealed yesterday that the Northrop Grumman MQ-8B Fire Scout is to be temporarily “decoupled” from the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program. The decision was taken so that the MQ-8B can be fielded on schedule, despite delays to the LCS. The Navy remains committed to deploying the MQ-8B aboard LCS at some stage, but is migrating the Fire Scout to another class of vessel in the interim.