Northrop Grumman Corp. (San Diego, Calif., USA) announced on April 12 that its MQ-8B Fire Scout vertical takeoff and landing tactical unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) marked a new single-day flight record of 18 hours.
U.S. Navy operators achieved the record using a single aircraft in a series of endurance flights Feb. 25 from the USS Halyburton (FFG 40). The composites-intensive Fire Scout is providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data to support anti-piracy missions while deployed on the ship for the Navy's 5th Fleet.
"We've continually worked with the Navy to enhance Fire Scout since its last deployment to meet these types of operational needs," said George Vardoulakis, vice president for tactical unmanned systems for Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector. "These flights not only demonstrated Fire Scout's maturity, it showed how the system provides a much-needed extension for gathering crucial information during peacekeeping or wartime missions."
In April 2010, Fire Scout concluded a military utility assessment on board the USS McInerney (FFG 8), a frigate similar to the USS Halyburton. Fire Scout has flown twice as much in the first two months on board the USS Halyburton than the entire USS McInerney deployment. The system also completed initial flight tests on board the USS Freedom (LCS 1) in November.
Fire Scout features a modular architecture that accommodates a variety of electro-optical/infrared and communications payloads. These payloads provide ground and ship-based commanders with high levels of situational awareness and precision targeting support.
Fire Scout's ability to operate at low ground speeds makes it particularly well suited for supporting littoral missions such as drug interdiction, search and rescue, reconnaissance and port security.
In late January, operators from the Halyburton located a disabled boat using Fire Scout's Brite Star II sensor payload that provides full-motion video capability. This allowed the ship's crew to get to the boat and help make repairs.