Northrop Grumman has established a new training facility for Fire Scout unmanned helicopter operators that offers improved flight simulators, hands-on aircraft maintenance and classroom instruction.
Opened July 10 at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla., the Fire Scout Training Center will meet increasing demands for trained operators as the system is used more during deployments.
“Jacksonville has long been a hub for naval aviation,” said George Vardoulakis, vice president for tactical unmanned systems at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. “By centralizing training here, Northrop Grumman and the Navy can quickly prepare and keep operators current on Fire Scout capabilities.”
New flight simulators were placed in the facility to improve the quality of training, incorporating lessons learned during the MQ-8B Fire Scout’s recent land- and sea-based deployments.
Typical training lasts about six weeks because maintainers and pilots already gained technical training on manned helicopters such as the SH-60 Seahawk.
“This is a wonderful capability that bridges a significant gap in simulator availability,” said Capt. Doug Ten Hoopen, commander, Helicopter Maritime Strike Wing, U.S. Atlantic Fleet. “As the Fire Scout program continues to mature and becomes self-sustainable when the new Fire Scout Fleet Replacement Squadron is officially stood up, Atlantic Fleet operators’ immediate demand for simulation and training will be met through this state-of-the-art facility.”
Fire Scout provides ship- and land-based commanders with critical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, using on-board sensors to capture full-motion video, identify targets and then distribute the information in real time to various users.
All four Fire Scout at-sea deployments originated from nearby Naval Station Mayport. The most recent deployment started in June on board the USS Klakring.
A team of Navy sailors and Northrop Grumman employees has been deployed to Afghanistan since May 2011, accruing more than 2,800 flight hours directly supporting ground commanders with full-motion video surveillance. Their mission was extended after ground commanders reported improved ability to see potential threats.