Northrop Grumman Corporation
Falls Church, VA
Fire Scout is a combat proven, autonomous helicopter system that provides real-time Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and Target-acquisition (ISR&T), laser designation, and battle management to tactical users without relying on manned aircraft or space-based assets. Fire Scout has the ability to operate from any air-capable ship or land base in support of persistent ISR&T requirements.
There are two Fire Scout variants. The smaller MQ-8B Fire Scout has deployed on multiple frigates and is currently deployed on a Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). MQ-8B Fire Scout has also deployed to Afghanistan to support counter- improvised explosive device (IED) operations. This system has completed more than 16,600 flight hours over 6,200 sorties. The Navy has integrated a multi-mode maritime radar on MQ-8B and tested an onboard weapons capability, the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS). The MQ-8B Fire Scout has also demonstrated the ability to operate concurrently with other manned aircraft while operating at-sea.
The MQ-8C Fire Scout is the Navy's next generation autonomous helicopter. The MQ-8C Fire Scout's airframe is based on the commercial Bell 407, a mature helicopter with more than 1,600 airframes produced and over 4.4 million flight hours. Combined with the maturity of Northrop Grumman's autonomous systems architecture, Fire Scout meets customer requirements for a ship-based and land-based autonomous system. It also has the ability to autonomously take-off and land on any aviation-capable ship and from prepared and unprepared landing zones. This enhancement significantly increases range and endurance (more than double) and payload capacity (more than triple).
The U.S. Navy and Northrop Grumman recently worked to enhance Fire Scout's capability, concepts of operations (CONOPS) and mission sets by demonstrating targeting capabilities at-sea, over land, teaming with manned assets, and integrating new technologies. For the first time, Fire Scout's manned/unmanned teaming (MUM-T) capabilities proved station-to-station hand offs of two Fire Scouts and the ability to stream organic intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting (ISR&T) data to an Amphibious Readiness Group/Marine Expeditionary Unit.
With a radar already integrated onto the MQ-8B, the U.S. Navy has also started integrating an active, electronically scanned array radar onto the MQ-8C. The addition of this advanced radar to the long range, longer endurance MQ-8C will greatly enhance any surface action group's ability to strike at distance and increase situational awareness over broad maritime and littoral environments.
Another important milestone was achieved when the Fire Scout payload, the AN/DVS-1 Coastal Battlefield Reconnaissance and Analysis (COBRA), airborne mine detection system completed the first phase of its initial operational test and evaluation. The alternate Fire Scout sensor payload can detect beach zone mines in the daytime, provide reconnaissance for amphibious landing forces and provide precision navigation to amphibious vehicles coming ashore. This enhanced mission capability will enable the mine countermeasure variant of LCS to grow its mission capability.
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