grid system used to lock the UAV to
the deck for safe recovery. To make
the deck usable for H-60 helicopter
operations in addition to Fire Scout,
a unique feature was added. The
grid platform was mounted on the
ship’s starboard recovery system,
used to move H-60s in and out of
the hangars. This enables the crew
to pull the Fire Scout into the
hangar immediately after landing.
With deck-handling wheels, Fire
Scouts can be swapped out on the
grid platform, Fronius said.
In January, Northrop Grumman
was awarded a $40 million Navy
contract for the third low-rate initial production batch of three MQ-
8Bs. Including the seven MQ-8Bs
used for development, 16 aircraft
in all have been delivered or are on
order, said Fronius.
The Navy plans to procure a total of 168 MQ-8Bs.
A single Fire Scout system, including aircraft and
flight-control and mission systems, originally was
planned to include three UAVs.
“It likely will end up being two,” Fronius said, attributing the change to two developments.
He said one factor was the improved endurance of the
MQ-8B over the RQ-8A, enabling a ship to maintain
desired surveillance coverage with fewer UAVs. The second factor, related to the first, was the reduced manpower required to maintain two UAVs versus three, an important consideration with regard to the minimal manning
requirements of the LCS. A detachment still could bring
three UAVs, if additional capacity was desired.
The Fire Scout systems have been integrated on the
first LCS, USS Freedom, but have not yet been scheduled for flight-testing at sea. The systems also are ready
for installation on the second LCS, Independence.
Although the Fire Scout currently is earmarked for
regular deployment on the LCS, the UAV eventually
could be deployed on more classes of ships.
“The aircraft is capable of operating off of all air-capable ships,” said John VanBrabant, Northrop
Grumman’s manager for business development of maritime Fire Scout programs.
The Fire Scout also shows potential for operating off
some Coast Guard cutters.
Northrop Grumman spokeswoman Rene Freeland
said international interest in the Fire Scout is growing,
in part because of the upcoming deployment on
McInerney. Several nations, such as Australia, operate
frigates of the same class. ■
An RQ-8A Fire Scout UAV fires the second of two Mk66 unguided rockets
during weapons testing at Arizona’s Yuma Proving Grounds in 2005. A weapon
for the upgraded MQ-8B Fire Scout has not been selected nor funded, as the
Navy first will test and integrate sensor and radar systems aboard the aircraft.
Fla., along with the ship. The detachment also will operate one SH-60B Seahawk helicopter.
“The decision was made after a lot of analysis for a
Littoral Combat Ship that it would be combined
detachment,” said Fronius. “The H-60 detachment will
be supplemented with some additional members who
will operate both the H-60 and the Fire Scout.
“The same will be done on McInerney, which will
prove out the concept for a Littoral Combat Ship. That
was the configuration that resulted in the least number
of total manning requirements,” he said.
A two-aircraft H-60 detachment, such as is deployed
on a frigate, destroyer or cruiser, typically includes 18
personnel. The inclusion of Fire Scouts would raise the
manning by five. Other H-60 detachment personnel
would be cross-trained in Fire Scout operations.
Operating the Fire Scout requires two personnel in
the combat information center or mission control center of a ship. One directs the flight of the UAV; the
other operates the mission payload and receives the
imagery or other sensor data from the payload.
McInerney has been modified with the systems needed to operate the Fire Scout. The control space formerly used for the Standard Missile — since removed —
now houses the Ground Control Station in which
Tactical Control Station software has been integrated.
The UAV Common Automatic Recovery System, which
guides the landing of the Fire Scout, also is integrated
on the ship, as is the wideband Tactical Common Data
Link used to communicate with the UAV.
Unlike the installation on the LCS, McInerney’s smaller flight deck is not equipped with the harpoon-and-