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US Navy deploys Northrop Grumman's MQ-8C Fire Scout to the Pacific

A Northrop Grumman MQ-8C lands aboard USS Jackson (LCS 6) as part of its deployment to INDOPACOM. (Northrop Grumman)

The US Navy deployed Northrop Grumman's MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned aerial system (UAS) on USS Jackson (LCS 6), its first in the Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM), to provide maritime intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and targeting (ISR&T) capability, the company announced on 23 May.

Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 21 (HSC-21) and HSC-23 will be the primary operators of MQ-8C. Scott Weinpel, business development manager for the Fire Scout programme, told Janes that the majority of the squadrons' deployments will be in INDOPACOM for the “foreseeable future”.

Fire Scout's deployment to the Pacific comes as the US Navy and US Marine Corps (USMC) develop the Expeditionary Advance Base Operations (EABO) concept.

“Fire Scout will be able to launch from a surface ship, whether it be LCS or some other type of ship, and then be able to provide ISR&T for whatever surface vessels are in that particular area; but then potentially be able to go and land at another type of ship and/or some expeditionary shore site that's in an austere environment where a standard runway can't fit,” Weinpel said.

The Fire Scout participated in exercises off the coast of Southern California to provide ISR&T and bomb hit assessment (BHA) for the USS Montgomery (LCS 8) in May.

The Pacific deployment follows the MQ-8C's first deployment with the USS Milwaukee (LCS 5) in the Caribbean Sea, where it assisted in counter-narcotics operations.

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