The Northrop Grumman Corporation-developed Unmanned Aerial Vehicle MQ-8B Fire Scout hovers over the flight deck of the guided-missile frigate USS McInerney (FFG 8). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alan Gragg/Released)

Looking ahead, Smith said the Fire Scout program is responding to a request from the Special Operations Command for a version that can fly longer and, in response to a request from the Navy’s combat commander in the Persian Gulf, plans to make Fire Scout the Navy’s first armed UAS within 18 months. And the Navy is teaming with the Army on a larger and more capable drone helicopter in the Medium Range Maritime UAS program, Smith said.

Northrop Grumman Fire Scout completes successful at-sea deployment.

The Northrop Grumman Corporation NOC -4.47% -built MQ-8B Fire Scout Vertical Takeoff Unmanned Aerial Vehicle was credited with providing critical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) support to special operations forces and U.S. Navy anti-piracy actions during the system’s second at-sea deployment.

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Two Fire Scout air vehicles were deployed aboard the USS Halyburton (FFG 40) at the beginning of January. The system was tasked to provide ISR support for anti-piracy operations conducted by the Navy’s 5th Fleet.

“This deployment was the first opportunity since deploying on the USS McInerney (FFG 8) for the Navy to fully use Fire Scout operationally,” said George Vardoulakis, vice president for tactical unmanned systems for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. “The system was involved in three different anti-piracy actions; participated in operations over Libya; and supported a Strait of Hormuz transit with the ship’s SH-60B helicopter — a valuable manned and unmanned aircraft operation that allows ship commanders to extend their awareness at greater distances from the ship.”

Fire Scout also successfully proved a special operations concept for sea-based ISR capabilities and observed a Yemeni fishing boat that had been stranded at sea for 10 days, allowing the Halyburton’s crew to provide assistance.

In the six-month deployment, the system flew for more than 435 hours and maintained a high sortie completion rate of more than 80 percent.

Source: Colin Clark for AOL Defense; Northrop Grumman Corp

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