US Navy League Sea-Air-Space Exposition Day 2 (10 April 2018) Mid-Day Report
The Northrop Grumman Corporation (NGC) MQ-8 FIRE SCOUT is a sea-based, vertical lift unmanned system that is designed to provide reconnaissance, situational awareness, and precision targeting support for ground, air and sea forces. FIRE SCOUT is able to detect, identify, track and potentially engage threats at extended ranges while providing unique situational awareness and precision target support for the US Navy. It complements the manned Sikorsky (a Lockheed Martin company) MH-60 helicopter by extending the range and endurance of ship-based operations. Navy FIRE SCOUT Programme Manager Captain Jeff Dodge, recalled: “Since its first deployment in 2009, Fire Scout has flown more than 16,000 operational hours.”
Significant materiel and operational enhancements are on the programme’s horizon.
The service awarded the MQ-8C Radar contract to Leonardo MW LTD (Leonardo MW) on 26 May 2016. It is expected FIRE SCOUT will provide the operator a 240-degree, instantaneous field-of-view and a range of digital modes to include: maritime surveillance, synthetic aperture, inverse synthetic aperture, weather detection and ground moving target indicator. “NGC and Raytheon will, in conjunction with Leonardo MW LTD, complete the Systems Engineering and Technical Review process to complete the integration design and test of an integrated OSPREY 30 radar with the MQ-8C FIRE SCOUT System. The MQ-8C programme of record radar should initial operational capability in second quarter fiscal year 2021,” the service programme manager said.“The Program Office is currently working to give the MQ-8C the ability to provide LINK-16 in-flight target updates (IFTU) messages to network enabled weapons for over-the-horizon targeting (OTH-T) as a third-party data source. Currently working to combine FIRE SCOUT, [NGC MQ-4C] TRITON and [Boeing] P-8 LINK-16 and MINOTAUR integration effort, allowing LINK-16 IFTU capability to be leveraged by all MINOTAUR users.”
MINOTAUR is a mission system architecture, incorporating sensors; radar; and command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance equipment. The fielded MQ-8B is currently deployed with the service’s Littoral Combat Ships. The MQ-8C is scheduled to complete Initial Operational Test and Evaluation this year. Captain Dodge added: “The MQ-8C deployment dates are to be determined, based on fleet requirements. FIRE SCOUT has the potential to operate from any suitably equipped air-capable ship. There are no plans for deployments aboard other ship classes at this time.”
The MQ-8 programme of record is 63 air vehicles.