Northrop Grumman delivered the first upgraded version of the Fire Scout unmanned helicopter to the U.S. Navy earlier this month in preparation for ground and flight testing. The MQ-8C delivered to the Naval Air Systems Command uses a Bell helicopter airframe, which is larger than the airframe used in the MQ-8B. But both aircraft share proven software, avionics, payloads and ship ancillary equipment. The upgraded Fire Scout responds to an urgent need to provide the Navy with increased endurance, range and payload. It has three times the payload and double the endurance of the MQ-8B. The MQ-8B currently operates on Navy frigates and in Afghanistan, where it provides intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to maritime and ground commanders. The first deployment of the upgraded MQ-8 will be in 2014. (Source: Northrop Grumman via PRNewswire, 071913) Gulf Coast note: Fire Scouts are built in part in Moss Point, Miss.