The first ship based testing of MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned Helicopter was completed earlier this month, while aboard the USS Jason Dunham, guided-missile destroyer. On December 16, the missile first landed way off the Virginia Coast.
With its design base on the Bell 407 Helicopter, the MQ-8C can Fly twice as long or with three times the payload capacity as compared to the Navy’s current MQ-8B, that is based on the smaller Sikorsky-Schweizer 333.
Along with Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk manned, the MQ-8C Fire Scout is meant to extend the range and endurance of ship-based search and targeting support. On October 31, 2013 Northrop Grumman prime Contractor along with the Navy conducted MQ-8C’s first flight from the Point Mugu range at Naval Base Ventura County in California.
The Dynamic Interface testing as on board the Dunham was meant to verify the system’s launch and recovery procedures before the MQ-8C begins operational tests in 2015.
Opertaors performed three flights and 32 recoveries and take-offs, during the five day test period, with the Helicopter Flying from the ship’s ground control system.
The data collected will help testers assess the system’s performance at different combinations of wind and ship motion, according to the Naval Air Systems Command. “By better understanding ship operations, we will have a smoother transition into operational test,” said Capt. Jeff Dodge, the Navy’s Fire Scout program manager.
“This exercise gives us insight into operating from an Air-capable ship and will help us mitigate any risk associated with the system.”
40 MQ-8C are to be proclaimed by the Navy, of two Airframes each, to support Littoral Combat Ship and other Air-capable vessels. Thus far 19 of the Helicopters which include two test Aircraft have been acquired by the Navy.
Susweta Bose [Masters in Mass Comm ]