The Navy is testing out a bigger, badder Fire Scout UAV

The Department of Defense is reportedly readying it's larger and more capable iteration of the MQ-8 Fire Scout UAV for use aboard its Littoral Combat Ships beginning in 2018. reports that after two years of flight tests, the Navy is prepping its new MQ-8C Fire Scout for operational testing ahead of its eventual deployment. It's predecessor, the MQ-8B, entered service last November aboard the USS Fort Worth.

At 31 feet in length, the MQ-8C isn't just larger than the 24-foot MQ-8B, it offers longer endurance, greater range and larger payloads as well. As Capt. Jeff Dodge, program manager, Multi-mission Technical Unmanned Air System Office, told, the MQ-8C can remain aloft for more than twice as long as its earlier version and carry more than 700 pounds of equipment -- 100 pounds more than the MQ-8B. This added capacity will allow the new Fire Scout to carry a new maritime search radar array with a range of more than 80 nautical miles. Once the new version passes operational testing, it's expected to be incorporated into the LCS surface warfare mission package as a reconnaissance device. The Navy has already placed orders for 17 of the anticipated 40 total MQ-8Cs it thinks it will need.