Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Navy successfully flew the unmanned MQ-8B Fire Scout simultaneously with the MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter for the first time. The capability demonstrates how a mix of aircraft can increase a ship commander’s intelligence-gathering capabilities aboard the Littoral Combat Ship.
The flight tests took place May 12, aboard the USS Freedom (LCS 1) off the coast of San Diego. Fire Scout complements the Sea Hawk because it can fly longer to maintain constant surveillance on a target or area of interest.
“Utilizing the Fire Scout in operational maritime scenarios with manned aircraft will prove to be a unique asset to our fleet,” said Captain Patrick Smith, Fire Scout programme manager. “The sensors of the Fire Scout are providing complimentary situational awareness and precision targeting support for the MH-60R Sea Hawk and Littoral Combat Ships.”
The MQ-8B Fire Scout is designed to takeoff autonomously and land from any aviation-capable warship. It has the endurance to fly for five hours and has logged more than 12,500 flight hours from land and sea.
“Fire Scout is giving our warfighters enhanced persistent situational awareness,” said George Vardoulakis, vice president, medium range tactical systems, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. “Fire Scout systems are providing critical information to the pilots of the MH-60R Sea Hawk and the sailors of the Littoral Combat Ship to ensure that they are protected from maritime threats.”
The MQ-8B Fire Scout is on its eighth at-sea deployment supporting a variety of surveillance and security missions onboard Navy frigates. The system also completed a two-year mission providing ground commanders intelligence-gathering capabilities in Afghanistan.