Latest on the Fire Scout

Fire Scout UAV Performs Automated At-Sea Tests

Defense News notes that the Fire Scout recently performed the first shipboard automated take-offs and landings:

Two RQ-8A Fire Scouts flying from Naval Air Station Patuxent, Md., carried out nine landings and takeoffs from the amphibious transport dock Nashville while the ship was steaming in the lower Chesapeake Bay.

Earlier shipboard tests were manually controlled, said Tim Paynter, a spokesman for Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems, El Segundo, Calif.

The MQ-8B, a larger four-bladed version (re-designated to MQ from RQ last year to reflect its multi-role capability) will begin flying from ships next year. The first airframe was delivered to Northrup-Grumman from Schweizer Aircraft Corp. a couple of weeks ago. There are twelve MQ-8B Fire Scouts currently on order, four for the Navy and eight for the Army.

The Navy plans to operate Fire Scouts from Littoral Combat Ships and DD(X) Destroyers. The Army is going to integrate them into its gargantuan Future Combat Systems program.

UPDATE: Another cool Fire Scout pic here.