SINGAPORE — Several of the US Navy's key unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are now available for international sale, including the diminutive Fire Scout helicopter able to operate from small surface ships.
"We have everything from Blackjack to Fire Scout to Triton, all US Navy programs," said Michael Sears, assistant program executive officer for unmanned aviation and strike weapons, international weapons. "That covers a lot of ground."
Sears was referring to the RQ-21 Blackjack, a relatively new UAS in service with the US Marine Corps, built by Boeing Insitu; the MQ-8B Fire Scout made by Northrop Grumman, and the latter company's MQ-4C Triton large-scale maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft, which the Navy announced on Tuesday had completed its operational assessment.
Triton, previously known as the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) program, already has at least one probable international partner in Australia, which is in discussions with the US over the arrangement to buy the system.
Fire Scout was built in two basic models, the small MQ-8B version developed from the Schweizer 330 and 333 manned helicopters, and the larger MQ-8C based on the larger Bell 407 helicopter.
Fire Scout Bs have been to sea numerous times in deployments aboard US Navy frigates, and another is currently operating from the littoral combat ship Fort Worth. But the service has switched operational plans to embrace the longer-ranged C model, making Bs redundant.
"We have approval to take Bs out of the Navy inventory to sell for international," Sears said.
"There interest in the Bs" he added, pointing to the handy size that can easily operate from a wide variety of non-US flight decks. "It's useful relative to the size of the aircraft and the [small] size of the ships."
Meanwhile, Northrop completed the C's operational assessment evaluation in December.