The US Navy has deployed the MQ-8B Fire Scout vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) tactical unmanned aerial vehicle (VTUAV) aboard the Independence-class littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS-4) to begin flight operations.

The UAV is equipped with a Telephonics-developed AN/ZPY-4(V)1 radar, which will improve the situational awareness of Fire Scout operators and LCS’s crew in maritime and littoral environments.

The radar will also improve the capabilities of the ship’s combat team to simultaneously track up to 150 targets and increase detection accuracies to up to 70nm.

"We continue to evolve into full manned-unmanned teaming by conducting simultaneous missions in the air."

The UAV and the MH-60S Seahawk will be operated by HSC-23, which will help increase threat warning in a high-traffic littoral environment.

Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Two Three (HSC-23) commodore captain Ben Reynolds said: "This air package will significantly improve the navy’s surface search capabilities for LCS and its action group.

"The expanded capability will allow our assets to employ an autonomous aircraft off of a naval vessel for search, detection, surveillance, and tracking of maritime surface vessels."

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Reynolds said that the new capability will enable the manned/unmanned aviation detachment to expand and improve battle space awareness and build a more detailed common operational picture.

Fire Scout programme manager captain Jeff Dodge said: "We continue to evolve into full manned-unmanned teaming by conducting simultaneous missions in the air by determining how best to use MQ-8B and MH-60S for traditional maritime operations."

The MQ-8B Fire Scout is set to take part in the US navy’s RIMPAC exercise.

Image: MQ-8B Fire Scout operates on board USS Coronado. Photo: courtesy of US Navy.