Unmanned platforms prove their ISR worth at sea and ashore
By NICK ADDE, Special Correspondent
point where they are cheaper to
deploy and operate.
Shortly after Klakring
completed the record-setting Fire Scout
deployment, the officers responsible for overseeing the mission discussed accomplishments and lessons learned at a Dec. 4 telephone
“This was the first platform to
ever exercise dual air vehicles in an
operational environment, not land-based or during training,” said
Cmdr. Darrell Canady, Klakring’s
With four Fire Scouts onboard,
The mission presented its share of challenges. Air
and ground crews familiar with the manned H-60
Seahawk helicopters had little or no experience with
Fire Scout, and had to learn quickly.
“It was gratifying,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jay Lambert, the
helicopter detachment’s officer in charge. “With the H-
60, we had a significant amount of corporate knowl-
edge. We didn’t have that with Fire Scout.”
Technicians from Northrop Grumman Corp., which
introduced Fire Scout in 2006, assisted greatly,
“For the actual Navy guys on deck, the workups …
for the first few days were really painful,” Lambert said.
Within three or four months, however, the crews
were able to provide the 12-hour station coverage. A
typical day involved spending 17 hours on each aircraft. Teamwork got to the point where it was very
fluid, Lambert said. During one 38-hour stretch, crews
conducted 20 different operations that involved landing and taking off in a surge capacity.
Warfighters today increasingly rely on unmanned aerial vehicles
(UAVs) for information critical to situational awareness and, ultimately, mission success.
■ The MQ-8B unmanned helicopter on Dec. 1 finished a successful five-month deployment aboard USS Klakring.
■ With four Fire Scouts onboard, Klakring’s crew was able to sustain 12-hour, half-orbit ISR coverage almost indefinitely.
■ In Afghanistan, ISR-capable UAVs have been providing ground
surveillance to forward operating bases steadily since 2009.
Ground troops are increasingly asking for and reaping the benefits of good intelligence, sur- veillance and reconnaissance (ISR). The ability to know what adversaries and obstacles may lie
ahead, with little risk, is producing tangible results in
mission success and lives saved.
Given those results, officials at Naval Air Systems
Command (NAVAIR) are continuing to pursue
enhancements of the airborne ISR systems that have
become so critical to mission success.
At sea, the Naval Station Mayport, Fla.-based frigate
USS Klakring recently completed a record-setting deployment to provide ISR support to U.S. combatant commanders in Africa. During a five-month cruise that began
June 29 and ended Dec. 1, Klakring and its tenant unit,
Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron (Light) 42, logged
more than 500 uninterrupted flight hours of ISR presence
with four MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopters.
Under a program operated by the Naval Air Warfare
Center, Aircraft Division (NAWC-AD) in Patuxent River,
Md., ISR-capable unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have
been providing ground surveillance to forward operating
bases (FOBs) in Afghanistan steadily since 2009. The use
of these land-based systems has evolved steadily to the