Fire Scout UAV Fires Rockets by Northrop Grumman
A Northrop Grumman RQ-8A Fire Scout unmanned air vehicle (UAV) fired two unguided 2.75 in. test rockets on the Yuma Proving Grounds July 22. Northrop Grumman claims this was the first successful live weapons firing from an autonomous unmanned helicopter. (The Vigilante helicopter UAV fired rockets under control from a chase aircraft).
The Fire Scout lifted off and followed a programmed flight path about 10 miles to the firing range where the Mk 66 rocket was armed and fired by manual ground command. The Fire Scout automatically returns weapons to standby mode and flies itself to an automatic landing if the command datalink is lost for 2 minutes. Aircraft speed for the first firing was around 40 mph. A second rocket was launched later the same day with the Fire Scout traveling at 52 mph.
Both the US Navy and Army have expressed interest in weaponizing the RQ-8B Fire Scout. The company-owned RQ-8A demonstrator carried a universal weapons pylon on its skid landing gear. Production RQ-8Bs will have a weapons mount built into the aircraft sponson to carry rockets, Hellfire air-to-ground or Stinger air-to-air missiles, or other weapons. Northrop Grumman also plans a "denied logistics" pod for the UAV to resupply Special Forces units in hostile territory.
No further weapons trials are now planned. The current round of demonstrations will include Over The Horizon communications relay and simulated logistics missions. The aircraft now at Yuma will also be used to demonstrate the Army One Ground Control System common to the Shadow and Hunter UAVs. It will also refine the Tactical Common Datalink, and demonstrate the Advanced Information Architecture. The Army has eight RQ-8Bs on order for Future Combat System compatibility demonstrations. The Navy plans shipboard trials in the spring of 2006. Northrop Grumman has opened an Army integration lab next to the Navy lab at its San Diego facilities.
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