Upgrading the Fire Scout

By Sam LaGrone

In an article published by USNI News on February 20, 2019, Sam La Grone provided an update on the First Scout program.

The Navy is rethinking how it will employ its emerging MQ-8C Fire Scout rotary-wing unmanned vehicles to help Littoral Combat Ships take on tougher targets in a new age of great power competition.

Within the last year, the Navy has shifted the focus of the Fire Scout away from missions that would protect a Littoral Combat Ship from a swarm attack offast attack craft/fast inshore attack craft (FAC/FIAC).

Instead, the UAV would use new sensors to provide targeting information to weapons aboard an LCS, Cmdr. Edward Johnson, the Navy’s Fire Scout requirements officer, said during a panel at the WEST 2019 conference. 

The move comes as the Navy has included more offensive weaponry aboard LCS with the goal of making it a more lethal surface combatant.

Previous plans called for the Fire Scouts to be armed with 70mm Hydra rockets equipped with the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) guidance system to take on threats like the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy fast attack craft in the Persian Gulf.

“We shifted it away from the new kind of 5th Fleet centric mentality and shifted more to a peer competitor challenge – and for Fire Scout, what that meant was a shift away from that armed unmanned system to a more sensor-laden targeting platform,” Johnson said.

“What’s important to us right now is making sure we have the right sensors, a good multi-function radar, some kind of passive targeting capability and the right networks to push that information to the right people at the right times. So, no immediate plans for weaponization, but it is on our capability road map just for a little bit further down the road.”

The idea would be that the Fire Scout, specifically the larger “C” model based on the Bell 407 airframe, would be able to greatly extend the range of the sensors of an LCS to find and target threats….

The C-variant is currently being tested after completing an Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) event last year.

For the rest of the article, see the following:

Navy Retooling Fire Scout Program to Focus on More Complex Warfare Missions

The photo shows maintainers from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 1 (VX-1) analyze diagnostics from the MQ-8C Fire Scout on the flight deck of the Independence variant littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) on June 21, 2018. US Navy photo.