capability to the manned MH- 60
helicopter will increase the flexibil-
ity of any ship-based operations.”
The MQ-8C will feature a differ-
ent radar than the MQ-8B and take
advantage of the fact that the C has
a larger aperture on it, and therefore
can support a bigger sensor payload.
“We’re going to work this to get
this out to sea and develop en-
velopes with various LCS hulls,”
Dodge said, noting it will move into
initial operational test and evalua-
tion next year, based on the availa-
bility of LCSs. “We’re getting it in
line so we can get it on board and
get that work done — that’s what
we’re focused on now.”
Because of the MQ-8C’s larger
payload, it gives the program
options as far as sensors. The pro-
gram has already done work with
electronic warfare payloads and
looked at the possibility of some
anti-submarine warfare payloads,
as well as the addition of the
Advanced Precision Kill Weapon
System, Dodge said.
“These things would be a real
stretch to put on MQ-8B, but with
MQ-8C we have a few more possibilities,” he said.
The program is primarily focused on the basic intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance system package, which includes the electro-optical/infrared laser designator, streaming full-motion
video system and ship transponder, to name a few of
the capabilities — not to mention additional ones that
could end up on the aircraft because of its bigger size
— and getting that to the fleet.
As a program manager, it’s nice to have options.
“With its larger payload and airframe, it can carry a
larger aperture, a larger antenna,” Dodge said. “We’re
still doing analysis to figure out what the load is going
The program currently is looking for a suitable
radar that has a long- and short-range mode, and, ide-
ally, something with weather modes. The MQ-8B had a
fairly small aperture that fits inside the airframe’s nose,
which limits the resolution in some of the modes.
There still is the development and testing work left
to be done on the MQ-8C. The program is progressing
toward dynamic interface testing and shipboard com-
patibility testing. After that, the aircraft will progress to
flight testing to define the launch and recovery enve-
lope, and the program expects to start that at some
point this year.
But the effectiveness of the MQ-8C is about more
than just its payload or how long it can stay on station.
It also has to work seamlessly with manned MH- 60
helicopters and the LCS itself.
The LCS has a “ground station” that has been per-
manently installed as part of the equipment on board
and hooked into the network that acts as a mission
control station for the MQ-8C. The crew is able to tap
into that network and the ship’s navigation data using
that control station.
MH- 60 pilots and air crew operate the Fire Scout,
and the mission control system allows for a seamless
control and management.
“Their knowledge of the operational environment
has proven invaluable and also a natural part of the
integration,” Dodge said. “They have demonstrated
that on a couple of different occasions, flying both the
MQ- 8 and MH- 60 at the same time.” ;
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG SEAPOWER / FEBRUARY/MARCH 2016
An MQ-8C Fire Scout completes a test flight at the Point Mugu Sea Range, Naval
Base Ventura County, Calif., Nov. 20. The flight was one of 11 operational assess-
ment events to validate the system’s performance, endurance and reliability.