Feeds

Robocopter gunship abandons sinking warship project

US Navy shifts droid kill-chopper to safer berth

The Power of One Infographic

American arms'n'aerospace tech titan Northrop Grumman has announced that its "Fire Scout" unmanned helicopter will now be trialled by the US Navy on a different class of warship than that planned.

This is good news for the robochopper, as the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) it was originally intended to fly from is in severe trouble and may never see service in significant numbers.

Fire Scout robot helicopter

No pilot required - not even for remote control.

"This is great news for the Navy and for the Fire Scout," said Doug Fronius, Northrop's top droidcopter exec.

"It's a win-win situation because the Fire Scout gets to progress through testing and initial operational capability. It will be ready to deploy on operational missions and will be ready when the LCS needs it."

It may be a while until LCS is good to go, however. The foundering inshore-warship project has suffered from runaway costs and its raison d'etre was regarded by many as dubious from the start.

Fire Scout for its part stands out among unmanned whirlybirds for two main qualities. First, it is a true robot aircraft, able to land itself without being remotely controlled by a pilot - even if the pad is on a moving ship out at sea.

Secondly, the Fire Scout is relatively big compared to small spy choppers and the like, based on an existing, small commercial helicopter design with improved rotors and the cockpit for obsolete fleshy flyboys removed. This means it can carry an impressive arsenal of weaponry and plenty of fuel. A Fire Scout can stay up for five hours, tooled up with laser-guided missiles or "Viper Strike" mini-glider pocket smartbombs.

Fire Scout is still smaller than a normal military chopper, however, so that as a rule of thumb two can be carried by a warship in place of a regular whirlybird. This offers the ability to maintain continuous aerial presence to smaller frigate and destroyers, an attractive feature. Frigate-sized warships tend to be heavily dependent on their helicopters, so the limitations of a single airframe and aircrew can be a big problem.

The USN hasn't said just what ship class will take the Fire Scout programme forward, but Northrop says operational evaluation will start this autumn.

Meanwhile, Fire Scout is also planned to form part of the US Army's future networked droid legion (aka Future Combat Systems), in which role it is known as Class IV UAV. ®

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
MARS NEEDS OCEANS to support life - and so do exoplanets
Just being in the Goldilocks zone doesn't mean there'll be anyone to eat the porridge
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.