The Navy said Tuesday it is grounding operations of 14 Northrop Grumman-manufactured MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopters while the service investigates two unrelated operational mishaps.
On March 30, an MQ-8B Fire Scout operating off USS Simpson was ditched at sea upon returning from a maritime surveillance mission in support of Africa Partnership Station. The air vehicle was unable to achieve UAS Common Automated Recovery System (UCARS) lock on, a requirement for landing aboard a ship at sea, according to the Navy. After multiple approaches and exhaustive troubleshooting by operators, the aircraft was positioned a safe distance from USS Simpson and the flight was terminated. Subsequently, Simpson crew performed a nighttime recovery of the aircraft. The second incident occurred April 6 when an MQ-8B operating in northern Afghanistan crashed while conducting a routine surveillance mission in support of Regional Command North. The cause of the crash is unknown at this time. There were no injuries to personnel and no damage to other aircraft.
The Navy said it is conducting a thorough investigation of both incidents.