The US Navy’s Independence-class littoral combat ship (LCS) USS Coronado (LCS 4) and the Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 1 have completed the first comprehensive initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) of the MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter.
Results from the IOT&E will be used by the decision-makers to identify ways of integrating the newest MQ-8C Fire Scout aircraft with the navy’s LCS units and other assets.
The unmanned helicopter carried out a wide range of mission scenarios on-board the USS Coronado off the Southern Californian coast during the test programme, which demonstrated a connection between the surface and aviation platforms.
VX-1 Detachment aboard USS Coronado lead US Navy lieutenant commander Seth Ervin said: “The results, lessons learned and recommendations reported on following this underway test period are absolutely invaluable to the future of the MQ-8C Fire Scout’s mission effectiveness and suitability to perform that mission.”
In addition to the IOT&E, the US Navy ship and squadron conducted simulated engagements in order assess the role of the helicopter in target identification, intelligence gathering and surface warfare operations.
The evaluation focused on developing methods of operating and maintaining both the MQ-8C Fire Scout and the MH-60S Sea Hawk aircraft simultaneously.
The pierside testing of the MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter is slated to continue on-board LCS 4 throughout mid-July, with a particular focus on maintenance and cyber developments.
Fire Scout is a combat-proven, autonomous helicopter system that was originally developed by Northrop Grumman.
It is intended to provide real-time intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and target-acquisition (ISR&T), laser designation and battle management capabilities for tactical users without requiring them to depend on manned aircraft or space-based platforms.