US Navy Uses MQ-8B Fire Scout as Laser Designator Platform

By Mike Ball / 28 Sep 2016

Hellfire missile on helicopter

The U.S. Navy has announced that its Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 23 has used an MQ-8B unmanned air system as a laser designator platform for a MH-60S Seahawk helicopter to fire a AGM-114N Hellfire missile.

For the mission, the MH-60S launched from Naval Air Station (NAS) North Island, while the Northrup Grumman MQ-8B Fire Scout was operated from NAS Point Mugu. The shot took place on a designated live-fire range off the coast of NAS Point Mugu against a dynamic target, which moved at approximately 10-15 knots. The Fire Scout detected target location and was transmitted to the MH-60S for targeting. Once all target requirements were met, the Fire Scout lased the target while the MH-60S moved forward and into position for the running missile shot.

“It was awesome to see the MQ-8B and MH-60S tactics and procedures being used in conjunction with each other for the first time,” said Lt. Cdr. Thanh Nguyen, one of the MH-60S pilots who participated in the exercise. “We were able to validate the Fire Scout’s ability to find and designate a target, which greatly expands the lethal range of the MH-60S while keeping air crews out of harm’s way.”

The successful Hellfire shot marks a significant milestone in the integration between Navy-manned helicopters and unmanned assets.

“The hunter-killer team of Fire Scout and MH-60S is now a proven combination that will be a game-changer for future deployments,” said Nguyen.

HSC-23 is a Coronado-based expeditionary squadron under Commander, Helicopter Sea Combat Wing Pacific. It is the first squadron to deploy a MH-60S and MQ-8B composite detachment aboard Independence class littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4).

Posted by Mike Ball Mike Ball is our resident technical editor here at Unmanned Systems Technology. Combining his passion for teaching, advanced engineering and all things unmanned, Mike keeps a watchful eye over everything related to the unmanned technical sector. With over 10 years’ experience in the unmanned field and a degree in engineering, Mike’s been heading up our technical team here for the last 8 years. Connect & Contact