R/MQ-8 Fire Scout
Northrop Grumman Unmanned Systems
The R/MQ-8 Fire Scout Vertical Takeoff and Landing Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (VTUAV) system is comprised of ground control stations, up to three MQ-8B Fire Scout air vehicles, and associated control handling and support equipment. The VTUAV system is designed to operate from air-capable ships with initial deployment on the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) and will provide a significant improvement to organic surveillance capability.
With vehicle endurance greater than five hours, a VTUAV system will be capable of twelve continuous hours of operations providing coverage 110 nautical miles from the launch site. The air vehicle is capable of providing UHF/VHF voice communications relay and has a baseline payload that includes electro-optical/infrared sensors and a laser designator that enables the system to find tactical targets, track and designate targets, accurately provide targeting data to strike platforms and perform battle damage assessment.
The air vehicle component of the VTUAV system was designated the MQ-8B to reflect the Fire Scout’s evolution toward an increased, multi-functional role. Some of the notable improvements include increased power, fuel, and payload capacity. Additionally, the MQ-8B offers more than double the mission radius and time on station than the prototype VTUAV. The MQ-8B completed first flight in December 2006. When operational, Fire Scout will provide critical situational awareness, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and targeting data to the forward deployed warfighter. The vehicle is based on the Schweizer Aircraft model 330 helicopter.
The program is currently completing EMD (engineering, manufacturing, development), and should begin low rate initial production in FY 07. Fleet introduction is on schedule for FY 08, with full rate production in FY 09 following successful operational evaluation. The current program plan is to provide systems to support LCS Mission Modules. These systems will include air vehicles, mission sensor package payloads, Ground Control Systems, Tactical Common Data Links, UAV Common Automatic Recovery Systems for automatic take-offs and landings, and shipboard grid and harpoon capture systems.