The US Navy is so impressed with the maturity and capability of Northrop Grumman’s Fire Scout vertical takeoff and landing tactical unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that the Naval Air Systems Command program manager is keen to share lessons learned with the Royal Australian Navy.
Captain Jeff Dodge says that, given the RAN intends to use the MH-60R Seahawk Romeo combat helicopter in a similar way to the USN, utilising the experience gained through operating Fire Scout alongside manned helicopters could help Australia gain a better understanding of a potential future capability.
“We’re very happy with the Fire Scout so we’re looking for the opportunity to share what we’ve learned so far about operating unmanned air systems off cruisers, destroyers and frigates,” Capt Dodge said.
“We think there are excellent opportunities for our friends and partners to leverage the active production line to take advantage of some of this capability.”
The MQ-8C Fire Scout, which uses the Bell 407 platform, has an increase in range of more than 30 per cent, twice the endurance and better payload capacity compared with the MQ-8B variant.
Capt Dodge explained that the unmanned systems architecture developed and matured for the MQ-8B has been transferred to the new UAV in a process akin to a “brain transplant” in the interests of delivering the capability rapidly.