USS Coronado begins underway operational testing of MQ-8C Fire Scout

An MQ-8C Fire Scout helicopter sits on the deck of Independence-class littoral combat ship USS Montgomery (LCS 8). Photo: US Navy

US Navy littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) started the underway operational testing phase of the MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter.

The latest set of trials began June 15, off San Diego.

The operations are a continuation of MQ-8C operational testing that began in April. This next phase is testing the MQ-8C’s ability to operate concurrently with other airborne assets and littoral combat ships.

Coronado is one of four designated LCS testing ships and the ship’s commanding officer says he and his crew are excited to help further advance Navy lethality.

“It is a great privilege to advance the Navy’s ability to conduct unmanned aerial vehicle operations,” said Cmdr. Lawrence Repass, USS Coronado’s commanding officer.

Fire Scout operations are a whole-ship effort, requiring effective coordination between the aviation and surface entities aboard.

“Whether it is ensuring that the data links required are functional, fire team personnel are standing by to respond, or managing the airspace and contact pictures; every single sailor plays a role in Fire Scout operations,” said Lt. Josh Riley, the ship’s combat systems officer.

During Coronado’s 2016-2017 deployment to the Western Pacific, the ship successfully used MQ-8B Fire Scout as an organic sensor to strike a target beyond visual range using a Harpoon surface-to-surface missile.

With that recent success fresh in their minds, LCS Sailors are excited for future employment of the MQ-8C Fire Scout, saying that the newer technology has increased speed, a higher ceiling, over twice the fuel endurance, and an improved payload capacity.

“Operating with the MQ-8C Fire Scout offers unique challenges, but it is the perfect partner to an LCS,” said Lt. j.g. Alex Giltz, Coronado’s auxiliaries officer and one of the few shipboard officers who has operated with both versions of the Fire Scout.

Fire Scout complements the manned MH-60 helicopter by extending the range and endurance of ship-based operations. It provides situational awareness and precision target support for the Navy with its ability to detect, identify, track, and potentially engage threats at extended ranges while supporting maritime requirements across the range of military operations.

The MQ-8C has and endurance of 8 hours on station, a range of 150 nautical miles and a payload capability of 700 pounds.

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