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Fire Scout unmanned helicopter finishes first flight tests from LCS

July 9 (UPI) — A MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter finished its Initial Operational Test and Evaluation from the littoral combat ship USS Coronado, U.S. Navy officials said.

The crew of the Coronado and Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 1, or VX-1, conducted combat simulations to evaluate the Fire Scout on target identification, intelligence and surface warfare, the results of which will help the Navy decide how best to use the rotorcraft.

“The results, lessons learned, and recommendations reported on following this underway test period are absolutely invaluable to the future of the MQ-8C Fire Scout’s mission effectiveness and suitability to perform that mission,” Lt. Cmdr. Seth Ervin, the lead for the VX-1 unit on Coronado, said in a press release. The VX-1 is the test unit for the Fire Scout attached to the mission.

The unit also evaluated best practices concerning combining the Fire Scout and MH-60S Seahawk manned helicopters. The testing made it clear that though it would take extensive preparation, joint operations were possible, officials said.

“My crew is excited to build upon their past experiences operating with Fire Scout and continue to improve our proficiency as a war-fighting team,” said Cmdr. Lawrence Repass, commanding officer of the Coronado.

The Fire Scout and its variants are semi-autonomous drones designed for reconnaissance, surveillance, and target designation. The MQ-8B has been deployed to Afghanistan to help Counter Improvised Explosive Device Operations.

The newer variant, which took its first flight from the deck of an LCS just over a year ago, includes a sophisticated radar and sensor system. One of its more unusual features is the ability to land autonomously on command without manual control. It also has the ability to carry a sea mine detection system.

The Fire Scout has a range of nearly 600 miles and can fly to up to 12,500 feet. The Fire Scout can be armed with Hellfire and Viper Strike missiles, alongside several other weapons systems.

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