The MQ-8B Fire Scout Vertical Takeoff Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
built by Northrop Grumman was credited with providing critical
intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) support to
special operations forces and U.S. Navy anti-piracy actions during
the system's second at-sea deployment. Two Fire Scout air vehicles
were deployed aboard the USS Halyburton (FFG 40) at the beginning
of January. The system was tasked to provide ISR support for
anti-piracy operations conducted by the Navy's 5th Fleet.
"This deployment was the first opportunity since deploying on
the USS McInerney (FFG 8) for the Navy to fully use Fire Scout
operationally," said George Vardoulakis, vice president for
tactical unmanned systems for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems.
"The system was involved in three different anti-piracy actions;
participated in operations over Libya; and supported a Strait of
Hormuz transit with the ship's SH-60B helicopter – a valuable
manned and unmanned aircraft operation that allows ship commanders
to extend their awareness at greater distances from the ship."
Fire Scout also successfully proved a special operations concept
for sea-based ISR capabilities and observed a Yemeni fishing boat
that had been stranded at sea for 10 days, allowing the
Halyburton's crew to provide assistance. In the six-month
deployment, the system flew for more than 435 hours and maintained
a high sortie completion rate of more than 80 percent.
Fire Scout operations aboard the Halyburton benefited
significantly from lessons learned during a 2009 Fire Scout
military utility assessment aboard the McInerney. To date, the
system has flown for more than 2,500 hours. Approximately 1,200 of
those hours were accrued during operational deployments with the
Halyburton and in Afghanistan.