A new and larger version of the Northrop Grumman Fire Scout flew for the first time Oct. 31, making two flights at Naval Base Ventura County at Point Mugu, Calif.
The MQ-8C Fire Scout uses an entirely different air frame than the MQ-8B model that has been used on a developmental bases by the US Navy. Developed to meet higher payload and range requirements, the 8C is based on the Bell 407 manned helicopter. The 8C uses virtually the same mission and control systems as the 8B.
The 8B, based on a small Schweizer Aircraft commercial manned helicopter, has been successfully deployed on several frigates, and has operated in Afghanistan.
The Fire Scout is a key component of Littoral Combat Ship mission packages, and is intended to operate from a number of Navy ship types.
The first flight for the 8C flew for seven minutes in restricted airspare to validate the autonomous control systems, Northrop Grumman said. A second flight flew in a pattern around the shore-side airfield, reach an altitude of about 500 feet.
The Navy plans no further purchases of the smaller 8B. The 8C is intended to reach its initial operating capability in 2016, although the Navy and Northrop note it has the potential for an early deployment in 2014.
New P-8A Poseidon from Boeing
Up in Seattle, Wash., Boeing delivered the 12th production P-8A Poseidon multi-mission maritime aircraft to the US Navy on Oct. 25. The aircraft took off from Boeing Field for Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla., where it joined other Poseidon aircraft being used to train Navy crews. The aircraft is the sixth from the second low-rate initial production contract lot awarded in November 2011.
Boeing is on contract to build and support 37 P-8A aircraft as part of four LRIP contracts awarded in 2011, 2012 and 2013. The Navy plans to purchase 117 P-8As, which are based on the Next-Generation Boeing 737-800 platform. The aircraft, which will replace the venerable P-3C Orion in Navy service, has also been sold to India.
First rotors for new CH-53K from Sikorsky
And not as sexy, but interesting nonetheless, Sikorsky completed the initial phase of testing for the first main and tail rotor blades manufactured for the new CH-53K heavy lift helicopter under development for the US Marine Corps. The all-composite blades are the largest and most technologically advanced ever produced by Sikorsky, and are designed to help meet the requirement to lift the aircraft’s maximum gross weight of 88,000 pounds.
With a length of 35 feet and a chord width of almost three feet, the CH-53K main rotor blade has 12 percent more surface area than the CH-53E blade. Marketed by Sikorsky as a “4th generation aerodynamic design,” the new blade adds unique airfoils, twist and taper to accommodate 71 percent greater power generated by the CH-53K aircraft’s three 7,500-shaft-horsepower GE38-1B engines.
Included in the span length is an advanced blade tip to improve hover performance, and a composite cuff attachment feature that will allow maintainers to quickly attach each of the seven CH-53K blades directly to an elastomerically-articulated titanium rotor head without the need for specialized tools or multiple redundant fasteners. When attached to the nearly nine-foot-diameter main rotor hub, the blade radius extends to 39.5 feet.
The four 10 foot-long tail rotor blades have 15 percent more surface area compared to the same tail rotor blades on the CH-53E helicopter. On the CH-53K aircraft, the tail rotor blades collectively produce as much thrust as the main rotor blades on Sikorsky’s 11,000-pound S-76™ helicopter.
The work is being done at Sikorsky’s facility in Stratford, Conn.
New MC-130J from Lockheed Martin
And just because we love the fact that a basic aircraft design can be built for nearly 60 years, here’s a shot of a new Lockheed Martin MC-130J Commando II Special Operations Forces tanker lifting off from Marietta, Ga., on Oct. 24, bound for RAF Mildenhall in the United Kingdom and delivery to the US Air Force’s Special Operations Command.
The Commando II supports such missions as in-flight refueling, infiltration/exfiltration, and aerial delivery and resupply of special operations forces.
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