Navy Grounds Firescout Drone Choppers

Well, then. With Navy MQ-8B Firescout drones doing everything from violating the airspace restrictions around Washington DC to crashing around the world from Libya to Afghanistan, it seems that the Navy has grounded the little helicopter drones indefinitely.

The grounding comes after a Firescout went down on March 30 in the ocean off the coast of West Africa. The little chopper made multple landing approaches to the ship it was flying from but was unable to get aboard so it ditched, according to the Navy. Apparently the little chopper was banged up, but he might be salvagable This crashed was followed on April 6 when an unmanned helo — though to be a firescout — went down in Afghanistan. The Afghan crash ruined the party for the rest of the Firescout fleet, with the Navy issuing a ban on MQ-8B flights that same day.

So sad. The poor Firescouts were set to have some real fun soon.

Via Flight.




  • Sgt_Buffy

    Poor Firescouts. :'(
    All he ever wanted was to be a real boy.

    • SJE

      When you wish upon a J-STAR, all your (drone) dreams become true. Although, if he tells a lie, he will grow a refueling boom

      • Noha307

        “You are grounded mister! I’m tired of you sneaking out to go violate restricted airspace!”

  • DGR

    Now to see what they will do with the Firescouts they have left? Sell them to the coast guard for land based operations? A fleet of Firescouts than can quickly respond to distress signals while the rescue teams are gearing up?

    • Riceball

      But what can an unmanned chopper do in an emergency situation that would be of any use to say, people stranded on a sinking ship? Unless they can be configured to carry and drop emergency supplies like life rafts, food, blankets, etc. there’s no need to send one ahead of rescue crews unless the exact location of said distress signal is unknown.

      • DGR

        I really have no clue, but surly there has got to be a way they can get the things off ships and onto land. It would be a shame to see the whole thing canned, unless the losses are highlighting some other major flaws in the system. Im wondering if they decided it wasnt worth the hassle, or maybe they just wernt performing well in testing to justify ironing out the bugs.

        How expensive were these? Is the cost savings enough to justify not just using a little bird?

        • tiger

          Fire Scout flights are “temporarily suspended” for all 14 aircraft in the Navy’s inventory while the two incidents are investigated and improvements are made, Naval Air Systems Command officials said Tuesday.

          On April 6, the most recent incident, a Fire Scout operating in northern Afghanistan crashed during a surveillance mission with Regional Command-North. The UAV was not recovered and the cause of the crash is under investigation. The Navy has three of the aircraft in Afghanistan.

          A week earlier a Fire Scout was ditched at sea at the end of a sortie off the coast of Western Africa. On March 30, the UAV left the Simpson for an Africa Partnership Station surveillance mission. When it returned to the ship, it was not able to “lock on” with its UAS Common Automated Recovery System, a program that automatically lands the Fire Scout on the ship’s deck. A spokesman for Northrop Grumman, the contractor that developed the Fire Scout, said there’s no manual way to land the aircraft. The Simpson’s crew was able to recover the Fire Scout by hoisting it from a lift point atop the rotor.

          The mishaps did not cause any injuries or damage other aircraft.

    • TMB

      They’re being grounded, not cancelled.

      • DGR

        Very true, I just have grown very skeptical of “grounded indefinetly” they rarely end well.

        And honest question here. Does anyone have cost data on these things? I have seen enough data on fixed wing RPAs to make my eyes bleed and they all tell the same story of massive cost savings (on paper anyways) and increased capabilities. What is the advantage here? Are we looking at cost savings or more in the relm of loiter time and not risking aircrew on dangerous sea operations?

  • Rohan

    I think if engineer can work out on it with all high tech modifications..It can make its entry back.

  • RCDC

    Does it fold its rotor blades? Probably future design of drone helo can flip and fold its rotor blades to fit more units on a LCS or carriers.

  • Lance

    Too bad there going away there a neat little drone.

    • blight_

      It’s probably temporary until they figure out the cause.

    • tiger

      Not going away. Just a stand down.

  • Belesari

    I think the Navy should invest in some merchant ships. Convert them to jeep carriers like we used in ww2. Could use seahawks, K-max, and such. Could be used for ASW, ASuW, Logistics and amphib ops.

    Cut the LCS out invest in a multifole patrol frigate optinimized for ASuW and ASW.

    • tiger

      Invest with what?? They have trouble taking care of the ships they have. They have carriers & other ships that will cost billions to scrap. Not to mention Personel issues.

      Commodore fired for partying, nudity in Bahrain…

      Navy tossing 13 Mahan sailors for drug use…

  • @defectron

    Aren’t these remotely piloted? I’m obviously missing technical details like most of us but one would think a remote pilot should be easily able to touch these down properly. If they are fully autonomous, that I think was too ambitious for this age.

    • DGR

      Just the take off and landing is autonomous, which is causing problems since they have no manual landing capability.

  • Ken Badoian

    For you history buffs - it’s DASH reborn…

  • Mike

    Seems we had a similar program back in the ’60s called DASH that was about as successful. Will they ever learn?

  • Some Navy Guy

    Fire Scouts, the MQ-8B model, cost in the area of 5.5 million dollars each. They will be flying within the next week. The Navy is so heavily invested in these vertical take-off drones that they will be buying more of them, even bigger models.

  • EdPH2

    Real, piloted helicopters are hard enough to fly…I can’t imagine doing it remotely.

  • Jeff

    Rember the DASH (QH-50C). Lots of problems there. I would think that new technology would have solved those problem.

  • johnno

    The main problem was with the AAA batteries, I only get 7 minutes of flying around my lounge room !~!~~~~~~