Earlier this month the Fire Scout RQ-8B completed its first flight with the baseline payload comprising an EO payload and datalink, bringing the U.S. Navy closer to the systems’ technical evaluation phase. On a test flight conducted August 9, 2008 at Webster Field, Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. the Fire Scout flew with Flir Systems’ BRITE Star II electro-optical/infrared payload and Tactical Common Data Link (TCDL) provided by Cubic, both comprising the basic mission payload for the unmanned helicopter.
The Navy plans to have the FireScout ready by early 2009, for technical evaluation aboard an FFG-7 Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate, to be followed by Operational Evaluation (OpEval) in the summer 2009. The Fire Scout is expected to reach Initial Operating Capability soon after OpEval in 2009.
The Fire Scout TCDL, developed by Cubic Corporation, provides real-time wide-band imagery and other information to the land- or ship-based control segment. For shipboard use, the airborne TCDL will communicate with the ship’s TCDL terminal. A Fire Scout payload interface unit allows the TCDL and payload interface to remain independent of flight-critical functions. This permits future payloads to be easily integrated without impacting flight critical functionality.
BRITE Star II, a derivative of FLIR’s BRITE Star and Star SAFIRE targeting systems, is also operated with the U.S. Marine Corps Huey-1N/Y program and is. The payload provides day and night surveillance and target acquisition utilizing day and night color/monochromatic and thermal imaging, laser rangefinding and target designation functions.