An unmanned helicopter design for the US Navy has successfully carried out a new set of initial flight tests at sea, its maker – Northrop Grumman – reported in a late February 2011 press release.
The MQ-8B Fire Scout is a multirole UAV intended to be used for precision targeting support, situational awareness and reconnaissance.
It made its first flight in 2002 and, since then, has been involved in a whole series of flight tests, linking it up with existing US military technologies. Correspondingly, these most recent Fire Scout sea trials weren’t the first time the helicopter design had landed on a ship, but they saw the UAV and a brand new LCS (Littoral Combat Ship) work together, which has never happened before.
Fire Scout Sea Trials
Previous Fire Scout sea trials had seen it operate from three other US Navy vessels - the USS Nashville (LPD-13), the USS McInerney (FFG-8) and USS Halyburton (FFG-40).
Ultimately, the Littoral Combat Ship fleet – which remains in the development phase - will host production model Fire Scouts and, on this occasion, the lead ship, USS Freedom, was involved. USS Freedom formally joined the US Navy in 2008 and already has several deployments under its belt.
The Fire Scout LCS test flights saw the unmanned helicopter carry out several autonomous take offs and landings while the parameters around them (wind direction, ship speed etc) were altered. These tests yielded valuable data that will be drawn on when the Fire Scout deploys onboard USS Freedom and its brother vessels for real.
MQ-8B LCS Sea Trials
Although the MQ-8B LCS sea trials were actually carried out in November, details of then have only now entered the public domain.
“This was a great opportunity to witness the pairing of the LCS with Fire Scout because it represents what the Navy will use for future littoral security missions”, Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems Tactical Unmanned Systems Vice President, George Vardoulakis, stated in the company press release.
He added: “We used the opportunity to demonstrate system performance capabilities with the ship, maintenance crew and other key logistical support functions.”
MQ-8B Image courtesy of Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems
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