NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. — Across the United States, the Navyâ€™s Fire Scout Vertical Take-Off and Landing Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle took the skies, operating in four different locations ashore and afloat, Nov.18.
Over the course of one day, teams from the Navy and industry partner Northrop Grumman tested the aircraft at Webster Field, Md., Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz., aboard the USS Halyburton (FFG-40) off the coast of Jacksonville, Fla. and USS Freedom (LCS 1) at the sea range in Point Mugu, Calif.
â€œFlying in four locations in one day, off two classes of ships which includes our newest [LCS], marks a major milestone for our program and for Naval Aviation,â€ said Rear Adm. Bill Shannon, Program Executive Officer for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons. â€œThis success highlights the phenomenal efforts of the entire Fire Scout team, and sets the stage for the introduction of a game-changing capability to our warfighters.â€
Operations began in the morning at Webster Field when the Navy/industry team conducted a functional check flight. A FCF is a routine part of the test program to determine whether the system is functioning according to established standards.
As the Fire Scout completed its flight at Webster Field, a major milestone was achieved as the unmanned helicopter took off for the first time from the Navyâ€™s Freedom class of Littoral Combat Ships. The team conducted phase one of dynamic interface testing aboard the USS Freedom, which defines the launch and recovery wind envelope aboard the ship. This is a critical step to integrating the Fire Scout on both variants of LCS.
Back on the East Coast, a pilot proficiency flight took off from the USS Halyburton. In preparation for the Fire Scoutâ€™s deployment aboard the frigate early next year, newly trained operators from the Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light 42 (HSL-42) were able to get additional flight time during this operation.
â€œOur goal during flight tests is not only to ensure the system operates efficiently, but we also want to ensure all personnel are highly trained and qualified to operate the system when deployed, said Capt. Tim Dunigan, Fire Scout program manager. â€œThe operators are key to successful missions.â€
The culmination of the dayâ€™s flights ended in Yuma when a team from Northrop Grumman conducted vibration monitoring system testing. The purpose of this testing is to mature fleet procedures to perform track and balance of the rotor system.
â€œExtensively testing the system and monitoring its performance, makes us confident that Fire Scout will provide critical situational awareness, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting data to the warfighter,â€ according to Dunigan.
Recently the Fire Scout surpassed more than 1000 flight hours since test program began in December 2006. The program is managed by the Navy and Marine Corps Multi-Mission Tactical Unmanned Systems program office (PMA-266), which is also responsible for the emerging area of Air Launched UAS.
The Fire Scout has two deployments scheduled for 2011. The system will support Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance missions aboard the USS Halyburton in the Mediterranean Sea and Horn of Africa and ground-based operations in Central Command.
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