Navy Qualifies First East Coast Squadron for Fire Scout Flights from LCS
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
ARLINGTON, Va. — A Navy helicopter squadron has become the first on the East Coast to qualify to operate the MQ-8 Fire Scout vertical takeoff unmanned aerial vehicle from a littoral combat ship (LCS).
Speaking Dec. 4 at a press teleconference, Capt. Jeff Dodge, the Navy’s program manager for the Fire Scout program, identified the unit at Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 22 (HSC-22), based at Naval Station Norfolk, Va. The squadron flies MH-60S Seahawk helicopters. HSC-22 qualified as “safe for flight” in the MQ-8B for the LCS last month. The squadron previously operated the MQ-8B from Perry-class frigates beginning in 2013.
The Fire Scout has been deployed from the West Coast to the South China Sea onboard the LCS USS Fort Worth, teamed with an MH-60S helicopter. All operational Fire Scouts are maintained in a pool at Naval Air Station Point Mugu, Calif., from which squadrons draw to equip their detachments on LCSs.
Dodge said that Fire Scout testing in recent months has concentrated on coordinated operations with Seahawk helicopters in manned/unmanned teaming. Also, for the first time, the Fire Scout has participated in carrier air wing work ups at Naval Air Station Fallon, Nev.
He also said the larger MQ-8C version will go through Initial Operational Test & Evaluation next summer and he expects the MQ-8C will become operational by the end of 2018.