The US Navy is to be armed with Northrop Grumman Corp MQ-8B Fire Scout helicopter drone.
In 100 years of naval aviation, only the most experienced combat pilots have performed the difficult task of launching an attack on a nearby target and returning the aircraft to a ship as it bobs in the ocean.
Now that tricky task is being turned over to unmanned drones.
With a $17-million contract, the U.S. Navy has taken the first step in arming its fleet of drone helicopters with laser-guided missiles to blast enemy targets. The Northrop Grumman Corp.-made MQ-8B Fire Scout would be Navy’s first sea-based unmanned system to carry weapons when it’s delivered within 15 months.
“It’s a very significant moment in naval history,” said Mark L. Evans, a historian at the Naval History and Heritage Command. “The weaponization of this aircraft represents a quantum leap in technology compared to what has come before.”