Firescout set to operate from USS Halyburton

Firescout and friend

SAN DIEGO, 15 Dec. 2010. Northrop Grumman Corp. (NYSE:NOC) and the U.S. Navy have verified that the MQ-8B Fire Scout vertical unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is functionally compatible with communications systems on board the USS Halyburton (FFG-40). This process, known as integration verification, cleared the way for Fire Scout to conduct bluewater — unrestricted — operations from the Halyburton.

Integration verification included functional checks on the ship, verification that Fire Scout payloads worked properly, and completion of a long-duration flight at distance from the ship. A team of Northrop Grumman engineers and operators on board the ship helped re-familiarize Navy operators with Fire Scout’s control systems. Northrop Grumman is the Navy’s Fire Scout prime contractor.

“Communications using Fire Scout’s tactical common data link and Halyburton’s shipboard systems were outstanding,” says James Porter, Northrop Grumman Fire Scout deputy program manager. “These results provided a strong link between operators and the vehicle. We also received clear video imagery from the system’s electro-optical sensor payload.”

“These verification flights will support the Navy’s decision to deploy the Fire Scout system for continued operational use,” says George Vardoulakis, vice president for tactical unmanned systems for Northrop Grumman’s Aerospace Systems sector. “We demonstrated that the Fire Scout system installed on the Halyburton was functioning properly, and that this same system could be integrated into other Navy frigates.”

Fire Scout performed well during integration verification with no vehicle or operator delays, Vardoulakis adds.

In April 2010, Fire Scout concluded a military utility assessment on board the USS McInerney (FFG-8), a frigate similar to theHalyburton. While the Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ships are Fire Scout’s intended home, the system is being integrated with other ships to expand its utility.

Additional verifications included a total of 10 approach landings from the left and right sides of the ship. A flight of more than four hours was conducted at 75 nautical miles to simulate a normal Fire Scout mission.

“These final preparations are part of a deployment planned for early next year when the Halyburton deploys,” Vardoulakis says. “The feedback we gain from warfighters in experiences using Fire Scout from the ship will really help us make future system enhancements.”

Vardoulakis adds that using Fire Scout’s ship-based intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities in an operational environment proves the system’s maturity as a much-needed extension for gathering crucial information during peacekeeping or wartime missions.