Navy weaponizing Fire Scout unmanned helicopterNews
March 22, 2012
PATUXENT RIVER, Md. -- Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) engineers are weaponizing the MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopter for an urgent request from the U.S. This is the first time the Navy has armed an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Weapons planned for the Fire Scout include a laser-guided rocket, the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS).
Personnel from NAVAIR’s structures rotary-wing division worked with the Fire Scout engineers to run tests on the unmanned helicopter’s new hardware, which will measure how the new system performs in a shipboard environment.
Navy officials saw arming this aircraft as an urgent need, “so we are pressing forward as hard as we can to get it out there,” says Jeremy Moore, the Fire Scout weapons system integration lead.
The weaponization was fast, taking place in a little over 18 months, when it usually takes at least two to three years for such a process, Moore says. A guided rocket gives the Fire Scout the ability to engage hostile threats independent of air support from shore or carrier-based aircraft.
“We had a very tight time line to conduct trade studies and complete design reviews,” says Bill McCartney, the Air Vehicle flight test lead for the Fire Scout. “Now, we are starting to execute tests, and there is little time in the schedule for repeats.”
Flight and ground tests will be conducted later this year. By experts at the Naval Air Warfare Center’s Aircraft Division and Weapons Division located at Webster Field and China Lake, Calif., with added support from NAVAIR, Naval Sea Systems Command officials and industry partners.