The Navy intends to work with Northrop Grumman to determine what weapons it could put on the MQ-8C Fire Scout, an unmanned helicopter deployed from Littoral Combat Ships and designed to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance as well as mine countermeasures.
The service plans to "negotiate and award an order to Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation-Aerospace Systems . . . for an integration study to include analysis of an upgrade of the Mission Processing Unit (MPU) and the addition of weapons on the MQ-8C Air Vehicle," according to a notice published by the Navy.
Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for MQ-8C.
"The results of these integration studies assist in the determination of potential upgrades/alternatives to the MPU and reduce future weaponization risk through early design work on integrating potential weapon systems into the existing air vehicle architecture," according to the notice.
The notice does not list specific weapon systems the integration study will incorporate.
The Navy already completed its purchase of 38 MQ-8Cs but is requesting $28 million in the fiscal year 2021 budget request for "engineering change orders, for correction of deficiencies [and] obsolescence and safety," according to the service's FY-21 budget justification documents.
"This includes correction of deficiencies found during operational use and deployments, improvements for maintainability and reliability, safety corrections, radar/other special payloads, Mission Control System (MCS), and emerging requirements and retrofit of capabilities procured post air vehicle delivery," the budget documents said.