Fire Scout UAV reaches 5,000 flight hours in Afghanistan
The MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopter has surpassed 5,000 flight hours in support of operations in Afghanistan since its first deployment in 2011. Prime contractor on the US Navy’s Fire Scout programme, Northrop Grumman, made the announcement on 13 August.
US forces in Afghanistan use the Fire Scout UAV in airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, to deliver real-time video and targeting information to commanders on the ground.
Capt. Patrick Smith, program manager, Naval Air Systems Command, said: ‘Fire Scout's versatility makes it an ideal intelligence-gathering asset for military units on the front line, both on land and at sea. This is a great accomplishment for the entire team and we have leveraged many lessons learned while we develop a more capable Fire Scout system.’
Northrop Grumman is under contract to the US Navy to build the first eight of 30 planned Endurance Upgrade Fire Scouts. Those aircraft, designated the MQ-8C, will have twice the endurance, three times the payload capability, and will be ready for operation next year.
George Vardoulakis, vice president for medium-range tactical systems at Northrop Grumman, said: ‘Navy commanders value Fire Scout's capabilities and recognised early on that a larger helicopter would allow the system to fly longer and carry even larger intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance payloads. What we've already done with the current system will be carried over to the new Fire Scout.’
Combined with testing and Fire Scout's six at-sea deployments aboard US Navy frigates, the system has eclipsed 10,000 flight hours supporting naval and ground commanders with critical intelligence-gathering capabilities to respond to threats.
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