A full scale mock-up of Northrop Grumman’s MQ-8C, the unmanned platform that is to succeed the MQ-8B, was on show in early April at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space exposition at National Harbor, Md. The MQ-8C is built around the Bell 407 helicopter while the MQ-8B was originally modeled around the Schweizer 333 platform (UTC absorbed Schweizer in August 2004 and the company is now a subsidiary of Sikorsky). Michael Furqua, director of business development tactical unmanned systems, said of the MQ-8C: “This is the rotary wing UAV of the future. It will have 14 hours endurance and triple the payload of the MQ-8B—that’s 600 lbs.” The MQ-8B has an endurance of around eight hours with a 170-lb payload. Fuqua said that the U.S. Navy currently operates 28 MQ-8Bs. The UAS has seen service in Afghanistan since May 2011, as well as Libya and Africa with AFRICOM (U.S. Africa Command). Missions have focused on Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) operations as well as over-watch with daily operations sometimes reaching up to 17 hours. Deployments have reportedly exceeded 500 flight hours and by the end of March 2013 the whole fleet had exceeded 8,000 flight hours.
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