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Friday, May 1, 2009

Rotorcraft Report: Fire Scout Passes Sea Trials

MILITARY | TECHNOLOGY

Northrop Grumman’s MQ-8B Fire Scout Vertical Unmanned Air System (VUAS) has passed its first sea trials. The VUAS, which is based upon the Sikorsky (formerly Schweizer) S-333, flew three missions from the U.S. Navy’s Webster Field at NAS Patuxent River, Md., to the stern of the USS McInerney.

In each approach, which followed different routes, the MQ-8B Fire Scout approached the ship’s stern, and then was waved off. Beyond proving the MQ-8B Fire Scout’s ability to make such approaches by autonomously, the sea trials validated the VUAS control equipment installed on the USS McInerney.

"The MQ-8B Fire Scout allows you to keep a helicopter on station during the nighttime, when do you don’t want to risk crews and manned SH-60 helicopters," said John VanBrabant, business development manager for Northrup Grumman Aerospace System’s Navy MQ-8B Fire Scout program. "This keeps human operators for those missions where their expertise and finesse is required, reducing crew strain and risk, while improving overall surveillance capabilities."

Continued at sea tests onboard the USS McInerney are planned for the MQ-8B Fire Scout, with a subsequent deployment in the fall. "Eventually, all of the new Littoral Combat Ships will deploy with MQ-8B Fire Scouts," VanBrabant said.

The MQ-8B Fire Scout can fly for up to eight hours at a time, with a 20,000-foot ceiling. The VUAS can carry up to a 600-pound mix of radar, weaponry, electronic countermeasures and SIGINT modules.

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