US Navy USS Montgomery (LCS 8) Conducts MQ-8C Fire Scout Unmanned Helicopter Operations
US Navy USS Montgomery (LCS 8) Conducts MQ-8C Fire Scout Unmanned Helicopter Operations

US Navy USS Montgomery (LCS 8) Conducts MQ-8C Fire Scout Unmanned Helicopter Operations

The Navy’s newest unmanned helicopter, the MQ-8C Fire Scout, completed operational integration training aboard Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Montgomery (LCS 8), April 21. During two weeks of flight operations the unmanned helicopter attached to the “Wildcards” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 23, performed various over-the-horizon intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance training missions using the littoral combat ship as a floating landing and refueling platform for continuous operations. As a result, Montgomery received real-time data from the airborne MQ-8C, allowing the ship to look beyond its traditional radar horizon to identify, track and target hostile surface combatants.

“Operating the MQ-8C from a littoral combat ship is a perfect combination. Whether operating in the open ocean or the littoral waters close to shore, this combination of ship and unmanned aircraft brings a new level of mission versatility and targeting capability over a longer period of time, which makes our Navy more accurate and lethal,” said Lt. Brian Larson, an MQ-8C pilot at HSC-23.

“This iteration of the Fire Scout truly increases the lethality of the littoral combat ship,” said Cmdr. Dustin Lonero, commanding officer aboard Montgomery. “It provides an unmatched duration of intelligence and reconnaissance capability that allows our ship to find and engage the enemy before they can find us.”

U.S. Navy Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Montgomery (LCS 8) sails in the San Diego Bay Channel. LCS is a fast, agile, mission-focused platform designed to operate in near-shore environments, winning against 21st-century coastal threats. LCS is capable of supporting forward presence, maritime security, sea control, and deterrence. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt.j.g. Samuel Hardgrove)

An upgrade from the B-variant, the MQ-8C brings significant improvements to the Navy’s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) mission capability. Designed to support distributed maritime operations, the MQ-8C can remain airborne for over twice as long as it’s predecessor, while its increased size allows the helicopter to carry more mission equipment and provide combat logistics support. Additionally, Montgomery embarked an MH-60S Seahawk helicopter, also assigned to HSC-23, for combined airborne operations. HSC-23’s mission is to provide manned and unmanned maritime attack and combat support capabilities to the fleet. Their inherent versatility enables full-spectrum warfighting support across multiple mission-sets and diverse and distributed platforms.

USS Montgomery (LCS-8) is an Independence-class littoral combat ship of the United States Navy. She is the fourth ship to be named for Montgomery, the capital of Alabama. Montgomery was built by Austal USA in Mobile, Alabama. The ship was launched in a ceremony at the Austal shipyards on 6 August 2014. Montgomery was christened on 8 November 2014. The ship was commissioned on 10 September 2016 in Mobile, Alabama. The ship is the third Independence-class vessel to feature improvements over the Independence (LCS-2) design, including standard 7 metres (23 ft) long rigid-hulled inflatable boats and improved corrosion protection and propulsion. She has been assigned to Littoral Combat Ship Squadron One. During the summer of 2019, the ship was equipped with MQ-8C Fire Scout drones.

Sailors assigned to the “Wildcards” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 23 conduct pre-flight checks on an MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter on the flight deck of Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Montgomery (LCS 8) during routine operations in the Eastern Pacific.(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Samuel Hardgrove)