3-May-2022 Source: US Navy
The Navy’s newest unmanned helicopter, the MQ-8C Fire Scout, completed operational integration training aboard Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Montgomery (LCS 8), April 21.
During two weeks of flight operations the unmanned helicopter attached to the “Wildcards” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 23, performed various over-the-horizon intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance training missions using the littoral combat ship as a floating landing and refueling platform for continuous operations. As a result, Montgomery received real-time data from the airborne MQ-8C, allowing the ship to look beyond its traditional radar horizon to identify, track and target hostile surface combatants.
“This iteration of the Fire Scout truly increases the lethality of the littoral combat ship,” said Cmdr. Dustin Lonero, commanding officer aboard Montgomery. “It provides an unmatched duration of intelligence and reconnaissance capability that allows our ship to find and engage the enemy before they can find us.”
An upgrade from the B-variant, the MQ-8C brings significant improvements to the Navy’s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) mission capability. Designed to support distributed maritime operations, the MQ-8C can remain airborne for over twice as long as it’s predecessor, while its increased size allows the helicopter to carry more mission equipment and provide combat logistics support.
“Operating the MQ-8C from a littoral combat ship is a perfect combination,” said Lt. Brian Larson, an MQ-8C pilot at HSC-23. “Whether operating in the open ocean or the littoral waters close to shore, this combination of ship and unmanned aircraft brings a new level of mission versatility and targeting capability over a longer period of time, which makes our Navy more accurate and lethal.”
Additionally, Montgomery embarked an MH-60S Seahawk helicopter, also assigned to HSC-23, for combined airborne operations.
“It’s a unique opportunity to control the airspace for both manned and unmanned aircraft at the same time,” said Chief Operations Specialist Megan Davis, one of Montgomery’s tactical air controllers. “By the end of the training, their combined operations with our LCS felt seamless and it felt like the future.”
HSC-23’s mission is to provide manned and unmanned maritime attack and combat support capabilities to the fleet. Their inherent versatility enables full-spectrum warfighting support across multiple mission-sets and diverse and distributed platforms.
The littoral combat ship is a fast, agile, mission-focused platform designed to operate in near-shore environments, winning against 21st-century coastal threats. The LCS is capable of supporting forward presence, maritime security, sea control, and deterrence.