February 1, 2023

Fire Scout prepares for CENTCOM deployment

A team begins to load the MQ-8B Fire Scout on a U.S. Air Force C-17 aircraft at Patuxent River, Md., April 13. The Fire Scout will provide hundreds of hours of Full Motion Video in theater supporting U.S. Army and coalition forces during its year-long deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mikel Proulx)

The Navy’s Fire Scout Unmanned Air Vehicle system is about to begin its first land-based deployment to U.S. Central Command this month.

The Fire Scout effort is led by the Navy and Marine Corps Multi-Mission Tactical Unmanned Air System program office, PMA-266, at Patuxent River, Md. In response to an urgent needs requirement from DoD’s Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance task force, the team rapidly modified, tested and verified the Fire Scout system to adjust to land-based operations and the demanding environmental conditions in CENTCOM.

“This is an exciting time for the Fire Scout program,” said Capt. Tim Dunigan, PMA-266 program manager. “The system has proven its capability on its two ship-based deployments, and I am confident it will perform well in CENTCOM.”

A combined team of military, civilian and contractor personnel loaded 90,000 pounds of equipment, including three aircraft, two ground control stations (GCS) and associated hardware, on U.S. Air Force C-5 and C-17 aircraft. The C-5 left with the GCS and hardware April 8, and the C-17 deployed April 13 with three air vehicles.

“It’s very unique for an aircraft to deploy directly from Pax River,” Dunigan said. “The activity conducted by our test team at Webster Field was done exceptionally well. We were able to meet tight schedule timelines so we could support the warfighter as soon as possible.”

The Fire Scout will provide hundreds of hours of Full Motion Video in theater supporting U.S. Army and coalition forces during its year-long deployment. The system will be operated by contractor personnel.

The Fire Scout’s first flight in CENTCOM is expected this month. The system is also currently deployed aboard the USS Halyburton (FFG 40) tallying more than 200 flight hours to date in support of humanitarian assistance and counter-piracy missions.

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