The U.S. Navy said today that it is grounding its anti-piracy fleet of helicopter drones following two recent but “unrelated operational mishaps”.
According to the a statement, both incidents in question involved MQ-8B Fire Scout, an autonomous and unmanned helicopter drone used by the U.S. armed forces.
On March 30, a MQ-8B Fire Scout operating off the USS Simpson, which currently on deployment off the coast of West Africa and in the Mediterranean in support of US and allied operations, was ditched at sea after the system used to lock onto the ship for landing failed.
Later on April 6th, a second incident occurred when an MQ-8B operating in northern Afghanistan crashed while conducting a routine surveillance mission in support of Regional Command North. The cause of the crash is unknown at this time.
In both cases no one was injured and the Navy is conducting a thorough investigation of both incidents.
Since 2006, the MQ-8B Fire Scout has accumulated over 5,000 flight hours with more than 3,000 flight hours tallied during operational deployments. Fire Scout has played a significant role in multiple operations including three counter-piracy actions, a search-and-seizure operation, support of successful transits of the Strait of Hormuz; completion of a special operations proof of concept; and use as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance asset for Operation Odyssey Dawn in Libya.
As a result of the mishaps, the Navy say it has temporarily suspended Fire Scout flight operations for 14 vehicles while system performance and operational procedures are reviewed.