Replacement robot. US Navy uses new drone

The US Navy has used the MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned reconnaissance helicopter in combat deployment for the first time. The tests of the drone were completed in 2015, and in 2019 the US Navy adopted it. The military wants to replace the obsolete MQ-8B, made on the basis of light helicopters Schweizer 333.

The US Navy first used the MQ-8C Fire Scout in a combat deployment on December 14 aboard the near-sea zone ship Milwaukee. The helicopter was deployed as part of the Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 22 squadron aboard the USS Milwaukee (LCS-5) Freedom-class combat ship. The MQ-8C has been tested in a variety of roles, including mine action and anti-submarine operations. Thus, in the future, the range of its tasks may be expanded.

The head of the US Navy's multi-tasking tactical unmanned aerial systems program said that the drone lives up to expectations. It is needed to work with the MH-60R/S Seahawk carrier-based helicopters that do not have a radar. Fire Scout allows you to observe outside the ship's radar near the coastal zone.

In service with the Navy The US new MQ-8C will have to replace the outdated MQ-8B, made on the basis of light helicopters Schweizer 333. The MQ-8C became ready for the first tests in June 2019 and will soon begin to replace the MQ-8B. Earlier it was reported that the US Navy intends to adopt 40 such devices.

Northrop Grumman has been developing the MQ-8C since 2012. It is a Bell 407 multi-purpose helicopter, on which, instead of seats and traditional on-board systems, remote control systems, reconnaissance equipment and additional fuel tanks were installed. Using a ready-made “base” will reduce development costs, increase production efficiency and be sure of the reliability of the machine. 

The MQ-8C Fire Scout has the increased speed, endurance and payload required for offshore operations. But his main “skill” — the ability to take off and land on ships. The helicopter is planned to be used to detect and track targets. 

The unmanned helicopter can stay in the air for up to 12 hours and carry up to 318 kilograms of payload. Its range over the control channel — 278 kilometers. 

The MQ-8C is equipped with an active phased array radar. It allows it to detect surface targets with high accuracy at long range, at night and even in stormy weather conditions when visibility is extremely poor. The first prototypes of the device were equipped with AN/ZPY-1 STARLite radars used on MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones. These stations are capable of providing a 360-degree view due to a rotating antenna mirror, detecting ground objects and operating in synthetic aperture mode.

As part of the development and testing program, the MQ-8C spent more than 1,500 hours in the air, making about 700 flights. During tests last year, sonobuoys were installed on the drone to search for submarines. The MQ-8C was tested by Northrop Grumman in conjunction with the British company Ultra, which manufactures sonar buoys and containers for their launch. During testing, one sonobuoy launch container was installed on the helicopter, accommodating 24 such devices. At the same time, the retrofitting project for the MQ-8C provides for the possibility of installing two containers of 24 sonar buoys each. Other details about the tests were not disclosed, but it is known that the developers recognized the tests as successful.

Despite the successful deployment, the US Navy is already exploring possible alternatives to the MH-60R/S Seahawk carrier-based helicopters and MQ-8B/C FireScout unmanned aerial vehicles. Aircraft will expire in the 2030s. operational-deployment-with-the-us-navy


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