The first overseas deployment of the MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopter on a littoral combat ship (LCS) is giving the Navy opportunities to
conduct simultaneous operations with it and the MH-
60R Seahawk helicopter, and evaluate the operational
advantages and procedures of the two helicopters operating from the ship.
When the LCS USS Fort Worth forward-deployed to
Singapore in November for a planned 16-month tour,
it carried an MH-60R and an MQ-8B, both operated by
Detachment One of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 35 (HSM- 35). The detachment swapped out with
Detachment Two in February simultaneously with the
change in the crew of the ship. Detachment Two
returned home in May during a second swap-out.
LCDR Edward Hill, officer in charge of Detachment
Two, led the four pilots, three naval air crewmen and
17 maintenance personnel. With a previous tour as an
SH-60B Seahawk pilot, this was his first deployment in
charge of a detachment.
The detachment’s MH-60R and MQ-8B are modules of
the LCS surface warfare mission package. The MH-60R
is equipped with the AQS- 22 dipping sonar, sonobuoys,
APS-153 radar and ALQ-210 electronic surveillance
measures system. Although it can carry three Mk54 anti-
submarine torpedoes, the surface warfare mission pack-
age does not include them, instead
arming the MH-60R with eight
AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, Hill
said. The MH-60R also can carry
two door-mounted machine guns,
either .50-caliber or 7.62mm. The
MQ-8B can carry the Brite Star
electro-optical sensor turret.
“We provide an increased
range,” Hill said. “The big thing in
Seventh Fleet is maritime domain
awareness. Instead of being limited
by the horizon, we now, [with] a
helicopter, whether that be the
“In terms of actual operations, we were out there
learning of the art of the possible, figuring out when
was the right mix of flying MH-60R compared to MQ-
8B compared to flying them both,” he said. “As we
start to slowly work through that process and deter-
mine what the correct mix is going forward, I think
we’ll find the added capabilities that LCS brings.”
“Our standard operating procedures allow us to work
manned and unmanned simultaneously from a single-
spot ship,” Hill said, referring to the flight deck on the
fantail of the LCS. “That’s something that LCS now
brings to the fight that we would not necessarily do on a
frigate or a destroyer because those are single-spot ships
and we, in the HSM community, don’t operate two
manned aircraft from the single-spot ship. We’re adding
a capability here with LCS and Fire Scout.”
Hill found that the Fire Scout gave the detachment
extra flexibility in managing operations more efficiently.
“My detachment would have two crews for the MH-
60R and three crews for the MQ-8B,” he said. “In terms
of how I, as an air boss, scheduled my crews for mis-
Learning the Art
of the Possible
The LCS is operating helicopters and Fire Scout UAVs simultaneously
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
The littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth operates MH-60R helicopters and Fire Scout UAVs at the same time from a small flight deck.
■ HSM helo detachments are working on the right mix of manned
and unmanned operations.
■ Combined helo/UAV operations expand maritime domain
■ HSC squadrons will deploy more with Fire Scouts.