Navy’s MQ-8C Fire Scout deploys board USS Milwaukee with radar upgrade

The U.S. Navy’s upgraded MQ-8C Fire Scout deployed aboard USS Milwaukee (LCS-5) Dec. 14, 2021, to support operations in U.S. 4th Fleet area of responsibility.

“We are very excited to bring this enhanced capability out to the fleet,” said Capt. Eric Soderberg, MQ-8 Fire Scout program manager. “Our team has been working closely with the ship for several months to ensure this deployment is a success.”

Sailors remove chains from an MQ-8C Fire Scout attached to the “Sea Knights” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22, Detachment 5, on the flight deck of the Freedom-variant littoral combat ship USS Milwaukee (LCS 5), Jan. 6, 2022. Milwaukee is deployed to the U.S. 4th Fleet area of operations to support Joint Interagency Task Force South’s mission, which includes counter-illicit drug trafficking missions in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific. (Navy photograph by PO2 Danielle Baker)

MQ-8 Fire Scout is the Navy’s only unmanned helicopter, designed to deliver real-time intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting (ISR&T) capabilities. Fire Scout brings increased situational awareness to the fleet in distributed maritime operations, extending the ship’s sensors range and endurance.

While underway, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22, Detachment 5 will employ Fire Scout and an embarked MH-60S to conduct counter-narcotics operations. Fire Scout will identify targets of interest and refine surveillance data of existing targets of interest, allowing for enhanced capabilities for counter illicit drug trafficking missions.

“Fire Scout is a force multiplier, not only in our current mission, but in every mission the U.S. Navy conducts,” said Cmdr. Brian Forster, commanding officer of Milwaukee. “I am very excited of the team I have onboard which has already, and will continue to, demonstrate how manned and unmanned assets can work together to effectively achieve the mission.”

The latest variant, MQ-8C, has a greater payload and endurance than its predecessor and is equipped with the Leonardo Osprey AN/ZPY-8 radar that significantly increases Fire Scout’s ability to identify, detect and track targets. The upgraded radar allows for a larger field of view and range of digital modes.

The MQ-8C is also set to deploy in the Western Pacific later this year.

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