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Fire Scout Completes First Unmanned Test Flights On Littoral Combat Ship

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by Staff Writers
San Diego CA (SPX) Feb 25, 2011
The Northrop Grumman-built MQ-8B Fire Scout vertical takeoff and landing tactical unmanned aerial vehicle (VTUAV) achieved a significant development milestone in November when it flew its first test flights from the U.S. Navy's littoral combat ship, USS Freedom (LCS-1).

The Navy conducted the activity, known as dynamic interface (DI) testing, off the coast of southern California to verify Fire Scout control systems have been integrated on the ship properly. DI testing started Nov. 13 and concluded Nov. 24.

"This was a great opportunity to witness the pairing of the LCS with Fire Scout because it represents what the Navy will use for future littoral security missions," said George Vardoulakis, vice president for tactical unmanned systems for Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector.

"We used the opportunity to demonstrate system performance capabilities with the ship, maintenance crew and other key logistical support functions."

Northrop Grumman is the Navy's Fire Scout prime contractor. A team of nine company engineers and air vehicle operators were on the ship to conduct DI testing with the Freedom's crew.

During DI testing, Fire Scout conducted a series of shipboard takeoffs and landings from various approaches. The testing also included subjecting the system to various wind directions and ship speeds. This process validated installation of equipment on the Freedom for future operations.

It also allowed the team to identify any enhancements that can be made to improve use of Fire Scout systems on the LCS.

Fire Scout is intended to be a key intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance asset in LCS mission packages for mine countermeasures, anti-submarine and surface warfare.

These mission packages allow an LCS to rapidly adapt to new assignments. Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for LCS mission packages.

With the successful DI testing, the Navy is closer to fully incorporating the VTUAV into LCS operations. Additional DI testing will be conducted on the USS Independence (LCS-2) next year.

The USS Freedom is the fourth ship and the third ship class from which Fire Scout has flown. Previous flight operations have been conducted from the USS Nashville (LPD-13), the USS McInerney (FFG-8) and USS Halyburton (FFG-40).

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