MH-60S, Fire Scout Expand Horizons
Navy demonstration enables maritime helicopter to communicate with UAV for first time
The Navy recently completed a successful demonstration that linked the MH-60S maritime helicopter with the Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicle for the first time during testing at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland.
From the crow’s nest to scout planes to radar, navy ships have continually looked for ways to expand their view of the horizon and tackle the threats that lurk beyond.
The U.S. Navy now has the opportunity to enhance the situational awareness of the surface fleet, after a successful demonstration linking the MH-60S maritime helicopter with the Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for the first time.
Currently, the Fire Scout and MH-60S often operate in tandem but cannot communicate with each other. The intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data the Fire Scout gathers must be sent back to the ship before being transmitted to the MH-60S and other platforms. In addition, controllers on board ship direct the Fire Scout, which limits its range.
The Navy and industry partners Lockheed Martin, L-3 and Telephonics flew four flights in October 2011 at the Navy’s Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Southern Maryland. The team designed, built, coordinated and flew the test within nine months, representing lightning-quick turnaround on a complex technology insertion demonstration.
The Navy provided its Fire Scout asset, Lockheed Martin coordinated with the industry team to install equipment on board the MH-60S, including the Telephonics radar and the L3 VORTEX data link installed on the MH-60 Sierra. The Fire Scout is already equipped with an L3 VORTEX data link, which it used to transmit and receive data during the test.
Allowing the two platforms to communicate could vastly improve situational awareness and reduce risk by increasing the Fire Scout’s range while keeping the MH-60S crew out of reach of potential danger. The live FLIR (forward looking infrared) video feed permits a quick situational assessment and faster reaction times since the crew receives an instant, simultaneous feed of radar for broad area surveillance. The Fire Scout also can designate a target for the MH-60S, creating a hunter-killer team to protect the ship.