MQ-8C Fire Scout undergoes first Initial Operational Test and Evaluation
On June 29, USS Coronado (LCS 4) and Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 1 (VX-1) completed the first comprehensive Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) for Northrop Grumman’s MQ-8C Fire Scout UAS.
The results from the IOT&E will help decision-makers determine how best to integrate the Navy's newest unmanned helicopter with littoral combat ships (LCS), as well as other platforms.
The MQ-8C Fire Scout performed a number of mission scenarios aboard Coronado off the coast of southern California during the IOT&E. Considered an important milestone for the LCS and Fire Scout programs, these operations demonstrated “cohesion between the surface and aviation platforms.”
“The results, lessons learned, and recommendations reported on following this underway test period are absolutely invaluable to the future of the MQ-8C Fire Scout's mission effectiveness and suitability to perform that mission,” says Lt. Cmdr. Seth Ervin, the lead for the VX-1 detachment aboard Coronado.
Simulated engagements were conducted by Coronado and VX-1 to evaluate Fire Scout's role in a variety of operations, including target identification, intelligence gathering and surface warfare operations.
Testing also focused on developing practices for simultaneously operating and maintaining both the MQ-8C Fire Scout and the MH-60S Seahawk. Results showed that simultaneous operations can be conducted, but these operations require “extensive planning and coordination across the ship.”
“It has been challenging and rewarding to be one of the first maintainers afforded the opportunity to take both aircraft aboard the ship,” comments Aviation Machinist's Mate Second Class Salvatore Greene, a member of VX-1. “Working together, we made the overall product more functional and efficient for the fleet.”
The chance to contribute to technological and tactical improvements within the LCS community creates a “notable opportunity” for Coronado's experienced crew.
“My crew is excited to build upon their past experiences operating with Fire Scout and continue to improve our proficiency as a war-fighting team,” says Cmdr. Lawrence Repass, the commanding officer of Coronado.
The first ship-based flight of the MQ-8C Fire Scout took place in December 2014 aboard USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109). Previous underway testing was also conducted with USS Montgomery (LCS 8) in April 2017.
With a focus on maintenance and cyber, pierside testing of the MQ-8C Fire Scout will continue onboard Coronado throughout mid-July. Coronado is one of four designated LCS testing ships homeported in San Diego.
A “high-speed, agile, shallow draft, mission-focused surface combatant” designed for operations in the littoral environment, LCS is also fully capable of open ocean operations. As part of the surface fleet, LCS has the ability to counter and outpace evolving threats independently or within a network of surface combatants.