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Norhrop Grumman - Navy MQ-8B Fire Scout Flight Test

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Northrop Grumman
: 07 January, 2008  (Technical Article)
Northrop Grumman Corporation has initiated the next phase of the Vertical Takeoff and Landing Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (VTUAV) MQ-8B Fire Scout development program with the first flight test using a Test and Training Control Segment.
This control segment is a shelterized version of the exact consoles and other equipment being integrated into Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) for operational use of the MQ-8B Fire Scout.

The first MQ-8B Fire Scout flight using this production control segment took place Dec. 15 at the Webster Field annex of Naval Air Station, Patuxent River, Md. The control segment integrates the latest Tactical Control Segment (TCS) software designed and produced by Raytheon's Intelligence and Information Systems business. This new software release, known as B2V4, incorporates updates from RQ-8A Fire Scout flight experience and incorporates provisions for both the baseline FLIR Systems BRITE Star II electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR) payload and the Northrop Grumman COBRA multi-spectral mine detection payload.

Additional payloads will be integrated into the air vehicle and control segment in the future. The plug and play capability of TCS software and the air vehicle interface software will allow seamless integration of future payloads with MQ-8B Fire Scout. 'This is yet another significant milestone for the VTUAV program and demonstrates the continuing maturation of the capability to land and deploy from a ship,' said Doug Fronius, Northrop Grumman's Fire Scout VTUAV program director.

The current phase of flight test for the VTUAV program covers operations with the new control segment and land based shipboard recovery system testing using UCARS (UAV Common Automatic Recovery System) in preparation for the sea trials next year. The next major phase of flight test in early 2008 will include operations with EO/IR payloads using the Tactical Common Data Link (TCDL) data link.

Besides flight test, the shipboard control segment has undergone system network integration testing at the U.S. Navy's Dahlgren facility. Additionally, the first shipboard control segment was installed onboard the LCS USS Independence. Additional control segment ground integration testing is planned for early 2008 with full integration with all systems installed on the ship in the first quarter of 2008.
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