The U.S. Navy’s successful deployment of its MQ-8C Fire Scout aboard a Littoral Combat Ship is inspiring new thinking about how the drone could be used from a wider range of platforms. The MQ-8C may also fly from one of the Navy’s Expeditionary Sea Bases (ESBs).
“We have been asked to entertain flying the Fire Scout on the ESB,” said Capt. Eric Soderberg, MQ-8 Fire Scout program manager. “It has a mobile mission control station that can be deployed on those ships, so we are feeding data back into our chain of command to see what logistics support will be needed to make that happen.”
Adding the Fire Scout would align with the Navy’s expansion of its fleet of ESBs. Navy ESBs would be expected to play a crucial role in the Pacific theater where vast, oceans might make it difficult for land-based operations. An ESB could dispatch special operations missions with small boats, launch helicopters, and function as a staging area for maritime combat operations.
The Pacific is filled with dangerous flashpoints such as the South China Sea, the Senkaku Islands near Japan, and Taiwan. A great power conflict in the Pacific would rely heavily upon the U.S. Navy’s ability to project and sustain power from the sea. The ESB design and configuration may be evolving to be better suited to the Pacific.
An MQ-8C Fire Scout-aboard an ESB could detect threats at farther ranges and expand the ship’s surveillance scope out the horizon, giving commanders a much better picture of incoming threats.
“With its endurance, the Fire Scout can allow a ship to maintain contact which would not otherwise be possible with the MH-60S (helicopter),” Soderberg said.
Soderberg praised the performance of the Fire Scout MQ-8C, saying it has brought unprecedented surveillance capacity, endurance, and radar technology to the LCS and possibly more platforms as well.
“I see a lot of opportunities that the navy could employ the Fire Scout,” Soderberg said. Kris Osborn is the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master's Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.