The US Navy took a step toward integrating unmanned aircraft into its naval aviation operations in late June as the MQ-8C Fire Scout successfully completed its initial round of testing.
“Results from this [Initial Operational Test and Evaluation] will inform decision-makers on how to best integrate the Navy’s newest unmanned helicopter with littoral combat ships and other platforms,” the US Navy said in a July 9 announcement.
The drone chopper completed testing from the deck of the littoral combat ship USS Coronado in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California, the release notes. The Fire Scout was tested to see if it could perform joint missions with manned aircraft, specifically the Navy’s MH-60S Seahawk helicopter. “Results confirmed that while it requires extensive planning and coordination across the ship, simultaneous operations can be conducted,” the Navy said.
The next steps for the Fire Scout include pierside testing with “a focus on maintenance and cyber,” the Navy noted.
The Fire Scout completed its first flight from onboard a naval vessel in 2014, with “underway testing” carried out in April 2017 in conjunction with the USS Montgomery, which is similar to the USS Coronado in that they are both littoral combat ships.
One of the other major developments in unmanned naval aviation in the US military is that of the MQ-25A Stingray, a carrier-based unmanned refueling tanker.
The Stingray program evolved out of the Unmanned…