On Monday, the Department of Defense awarded Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC) a $71.6 million modification to a previously awarded contract to modify and deliver six vertical take-off and landing tactical unmanned aerial vehicles (VTUAV) and seven ground control stations to the U.S. Navy "in support of the VTUAV endurance upgrade rapid deployment capability effort."

The Pentagon's announcement does not make clear whether it refers to Northrop's already-in-service MQ-8B Fire Scout VTUAV, or to the expected upgrade to a new MQ-8C "Fire-X" configuration, which is being developed to arm the Fire Scout with Griffin and Hellfire missiles, as well as APKWS II guided rockets.

However, since the contract modification sets a September 2014 completion date -- and the Fire-X is expected to enter service in 2014 -- combined with the contract's specification that Northrop is to "modify" the VTUAV before delivering it, one might conclude this may indeed be a Fire-X delivery contract.

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