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MQ-8 Fire Scout UAV

The MQ-8B Fire Scout is a vertical takeoff and landing unmanned aerial vehicle (VTUAV) used by the U.S. military. The Fire Scout is derived from a helicopter as a result of a Navy effort to create a shipboard-capable UAV for reconnaissance and targeting. Manufactured by Northrop Grumman and based on the Schweitzer helicopter, the Fire Scout carries an electro-optical infrared (EO/IR) sensor payload with a laser designator. Armaments include Hellfire missiles, Viper Strike glide weapons, and the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS). The Fire Scout first deployed aboard the Navy ship USS McInerney (FFG-8) in 2009.

MQ-8B Fire Scout lands aboard USS <i>McInerney</i> during developmental testing. The unmanned rotary aircraft departed aboard the <i>McInerney</i> on its first operational deployment, week of 5 Oct 2009
MQ-8B Fire Scout lands aboard USS McInerney during developmental testing. The unmanned rotary aircraft departed aboard the McInerney on its first operational deployment, week of 5 Oct 2009.

Today in WW II: 20 Jun 1943 Operation TOENAILS opens with Marines landing at Segi Point on Vangunu Island, southeast of New Georgia.   

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV): MQ-8 Fire Scout Development

The Fire Scout is the replacement for the RQ-2 Pioneer UAV. The Navy required a vertical takeoff and landing UAV that could operate from its ships, carry a 200-lb. payload, and operate over a range of 125 miles. A competition to meet the Navy requirements was held, and of the three finalists, the Ryan-Schweizer UAV was chosen in the spring of 2000.

Designated the RQ-8A Fire Scout, where the "R" stands for reconnaissance and the "Q" indicates a UAV, this version was based on the Schweizer 330SP helicopter, a turbine-powered, three-passenger vehicle. A new, more aerodynamic fuselage, fuel system, and UAV sensors were added. The RQ-8A control system was designed for shipboard operation, or on board land vehicles for use by the U.S. Marines.

However, the Navy was dissatisfied with the RQ-8A's performance. Northrop Grumman continued to improve on the UAV, eventually interesting the U.S. Army, which contracted for seven evaluation Fire Scouts under the designation RQ-8B at the end of 2003 as a part of its Future Combat System (FCS) program. With weaponization during development, the designation was changed to MQ-8B in 2006,with the "M" meaning multi-mission. The MQ-8B is based on the Schweizer 333 helicopter airframe.

The Fire Scout entered low-rate initial production (LRIP) in May 2007, and saw many alterations and improvements. The three-blade main rotor on the RQ-8A was replaced with a four-blade rotor with a blade diameter of 27.5 feet to minimize noise and improve flight performance. Takeoff weight was increased to 3,150 pounds, with support for payloads of as much as 700 pounds during short-range operations.

Stub wings, also known as sponsons, were added to the MQ-8B to improve flight performance and provide hardpoints for weapons such as the Hellfire missile, Hydra rockets, Viper Strike glide weapon, and especially the Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System (APKWS). The Fire Scout is equipped with skids for conventional autonomous launch and landing, and can operate from virtually any location.

The MQ-8B design allows for rapid alteration of payloads. At present, a turret with an electro-optical infrared (EO/IR) sensor package with laser designator is standard. Other payloads may include a Moving Target Indicator (MTI), signals intelligence (SIGINT) module, Tactical Common Data Link (TCDL), and Airborne Surveillance and Target Acquisition Minefield Detection System (ASTAMIDS).

Northrop Grumman began production of test UAVs in April 2006 at its plant in Moss Point, MS, with design work undertaken at the Unmanned Systems Development Center in San Diego, CA. Schweizer supplies the airframe for the Fire Scout. The first flight of a MQ-8B occurred on 18 December 2006 at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station, MD.

The Army's interest in the evolved Fire Scout renewed Navy interest in the UAV. The Navy ordered MQ-8B-derived Sea Scout UAVs for evaluation. The Army then determined that the RQ-7 Shadow UAV would better serve its needs, ending its Fire Scout program.

The Navy began testing the Fire Scout in January 2006, when an RQ-8A successfully landed about the USS Nashville (LPD-13). This was the first autonomous landing of a UAV helicopter on a moving Navy ship without remote pilot guidance. Northrop Grumman delivered three production MQ-8B Fire Scouts to the Navy in 2009. The Navy is integrating the RQ-8B into its Littoral Combat Ships.

MQ-8 Fire Scout Operational History

The Navy first deployed the MQ-8B onboard the McInerney in September 2009. An MQ-8B from the McInerny detected and interdicted a speedboat engaged in cocaine smuggling on 3 April 2010. A flight failure of an MQ-8B on 2 August 2010 led to the UAV entering restricted airspace in Washington DC.

Characteristics of the MQ-8 Fire Scout

Payload & ArmamentEO/IR sensor package; Hellfire missiles; Viper Strike glide weapons
EngineRolls Royce 250-C20W heavy fuel turbo shaft engine
Speed115 knots
Range110 nm, 6 hours flight time
Ceiling20,000 ft.
Span27.5 ft. (rotor diameter)
Length31.7 ft.
Height9.8 ft.
Weight2,073 lbs. (empty); 3,150 lbs. (max. takeoff weight)

MQ-8B Fire Scout during the aircrafts first deployment aboard USS <i>McInerney</i>, 2009
MQ-8B Fire Scout during the aircrafts first deployment aboard USS McInerney, 2009.

MQ-8B Fire Scout hovers over the flight deck of the guided-missile frigate USS <i>McInerney</i> (FFG 8) as the ship's crew prepares for anti-drug trafficking operations in the Atlantic Ocean, 8 May  2009
MQ-8B Fire Scout hovers over the flight deck of the guided-missile frigate USS McInerney (FFG 8) as the ship's crew prepares for anti-drug trafficking operations in the Atlantic Ocean, 8 May 2009.

MQ-8B Fire Scout during anti-drug trafficking operations over the Atlantic Ocean, 8 May 2009
MQ-8B Fire Scout during anti-drug trafficking operations over the Atlantic Ocean, 8 May 2009.

>MQ-8B Fire Scout is craned off the guided-missile frigate USS <i>McInerney</i> (FFG 8) after completing its first operational deployment 16 April 2010, in Mayport, FL
MQ-8B Fire Scout is craned off the guided-missile frigate USS McInerney (FFG 8) after completing its first operational deployment 16 April 2010, in Mayport, FL.

MQ-8B Fire Scout approaches USS <i>Freedom</i> (LCS 1) preparing to land for the first time, 18 Nov 2010 during Phase I of the system's dynamic interface testing aboard the ship at Point Mugu's sea range off California
MQ-8B Fire Scout approaches USS Freedom (LCS 1) preparing to land for the first time, 18 Nov 2010 during Phase I of the system's dynamic interface testing aboard the ship at Point Mugu's sea range off California.

Recommended Books about the MQ-8 Fire Scout and UAVs

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