Navy to deploy helicopter drones to Pacific for first time
The Fire Scout, officially known as the MQ-8, comes in two varieties – the smaller B model, based on the Schweizer 330SP, and the larger C, based on the Bell 407. With the ability to remain on station for around 41 hours, the new drones provide a serious bump to the Navy's surveillance abilities in the waters of southeast Asia.
The Fort Worth will get four Fire Scouts, which will provide a unique advantage over other ships in the fleet.
"The Navy has no qualms about flying two [Fire Scouts] at the same time so that gives them more flexibility with missions," Fire Scout project manager Tom Twomey told Stars and Stripes. This ability is a far cry from ships with manned choppers, which are only able to launch one helicopter at a time due to concerns about deck space.
And of course, there are the more well known benefits of drones.
"The largest thing our aircraft can provide is persistence," said Twomey. "And it doesn't put pilots in harm's way. If you put it into a contested area and it gets shot down, nobody dies."
The Fire Scout is also currently serving aboard the USS Samuel B. Roberts in the Mediterranean, and is undergoing testing aboard another LCS and a guided-missile frigate.
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