The U.S. Navy has deployed a Northrop Grumman-built Fire Scout autonomous helicopter aboard an Independence-class littoral combat ship to support maritime intelligence, reconnaissance, surveillance and targeting missions in the Indo-Pacific area.
The MQ-8C on USS Jackson marks the unmanned aircraft system’s first operational deployment to the region, Northrop said Monday.
Lance Eischeid, director of the company’s Fire Scout program, said the helicopter has helped the service branch perform counter-narcotic operations in the first deployment to the Caribbean Sea.
“While Fire Scout will still be active on remaining littoral combat ships, the system is being built into the Constellation-class frigate design, most notably the USS Constellation (FFG-62), as well as other ship classes,” said Capt. Dennis Monagle, a program manager at Naval Air Systems Command.
The Navy plans to utilize the runway-independent aircraft platform on guided-missile frigates and for shore operations as part of the branch’s Expeditionary Advance Base Operations vision.
Northrop envisions its MQ-8C performing other roles such as cargo transportation, anti-submarine warfare and mine countermeasures.