PHOTO], is being assigned to another class of ships.
The RQ-8A was originally developed for use on the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS),
and was due to enter service next year. But the LCS is behind schedule and the
Fire Scout isn't, so the navy is assigning the Fire Scout to other ships. It's
uncertain what other ships will get the Fire Scout, perhaps some that are
operating in the Persian Gulf or off the Somali coast. This would give the Fire
Scout some real world experience, especially since it is able to fire Hellfire
missiles and unguided 70mm unguided rockets.
The U.S. Navy's new
helicopter UAV, the RQ-8A Fire Scout [
The RQ-8A can stay in the air for up to
eight hours at a time (five hour missions are more common), has a top speed of
230 kilometers an hour, and can operate up to 230 kilometers from its
controller (on land, or a ship.) The RQ-8A is being developed for use on the
new Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). Three
production models have been delivered, and nine more are under construction.
The U.S. Army is buying the slightly
more capable RQ-8B, which will be particularly useful supporting combat
operations in urban areas. Both versions carry day and night cameras, GPS and
targeting gear (laser range finders and designators). The RQ-8 is based on a
two seat civilian helicopter (the Schweizer Model 333), and has a maximum
takeoff weight of 1.5 tons. With its rotors folded (for storage on ships), the
RQ-8 is 23 feet long and 9.4 feet high. Max payload is 600 pounds, meaning it
would probably carry hundred pound Hellfire, or 44 pound Viper Strike missiles.
Each RQ-8 UAV costs about $8 million (including a share of the ground control
equipment and some spares.) The flight control software enables the RQ-8 to
land and take off automatically.