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Navy's Only Unmanned Helicopter Flies for 23 Hours During Exercise in California

The MQ-8C Fire Scout is described by the Navy as its only “unmanned helicopter with the ability to deploy from a ship or land.” Almost ten years after its first flight, the Bell 407-based machine is now being put through its paces hard by the military branch, with the most recent outing taking place during Resolute Hunter exercise in California.
MQ-8C Fire Scout flying over California 6 photos
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The exercise was held at the end of June, but only this week did the Navy provide us with details of the Fire Scout’s exploits there. We’re told that the unnamed helicopter flew for a total of 23 hours during the exercises, “proving the unmanned helicopter’s expeditionary use from land and across multiple ship classes.”

Powered by a Rolls-Royce engine that gives it a top speed of 132 mph (213 kph), the thing can stay in the air for up to eight hours at a time, meaning it had to perform more than one mission over Cali.

The Fire Scout’s main missions are intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR), but if need be, it can also be used for target-acquisition operations. Back in May 2022, we learned of it being deployed over a Florida beach in search of planted mines, also during an exercise.

The most important aspect of the Fire Scout is that, because of its dimensions and the fact that it is, after all, a helicopter, it can be deployed either from land or from ships, and can land on pretty much any conceivable surface.

“Fire Scout is the Navy’s only unmanned helicopter with the ability to deploy from a ship or land with ISR&T at the extended range required for future warfighting,” said in a statement Capt. Dennis Monagle, Fire Scout program manager. “The system is vital in expeditionary use for situational awareness and critical decision-making.”

At the moment, the Fire Scout is deployed with the USS Jackson (LCS-6) in the Indo-Pacific region, undergoing more tests.

press release

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