Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22 received their first MQ-8C Firescout on Sept. 15 aboard Naval Station Norfolk.
HSC-22 marks the first East Coast squadron to operate all three systems to include the MH-60S Knighthawk, MQ-8B Firescout, and MQ-8C Firescout. The new added capability of the MQ-8C combines the capabilities of the MQ-8B with the MH-60S Knighthawk to improve the Navy’s ability to investigate and target hostile surface contacts.
“Incorporating the MQ-8C will represent a significant improvement in our unmanned air vehicle mission capability,” said Cmdr. Matthew Wright, HSC-22’s commanding officer. “The ‘Charlie’ is bigger, faster, can carry more mission equipment, and remain airborne over twice as long as our already-proven MQ-8B’s.”
MQ-8B and C Firescout variants are designed for suitably equipped ship-based and land-based autonomous systems. MQ-8B and C Firescout/MH-60S extend Naval Aviation’s capability to support distributed maritime operations providing integrated, over-the-horizon intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting, and combat logistics support.
While the majority of the flight software in the MQ-8C Firescout is similar to the MQ-8B Firescout variant, the aircrews must adapt to the new capabilities of upgraded unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to include obtaining additional qualifications required for the maintenance team.
Lt. Ryan Jaenke, MH-60S, MQ-8B/C pilot, discussed the advanced capabilities of the MQ-8C.
“The MQ-8C Firescout is the latest step toward increasing the duration that UAS has on the battlefield as well as the impact. It advances the reliability of UAS as well as leaves a larger impact on the battlefield in missions that are not new to today’s warfighter,” said Jaenke.
HSC-22’s mission is to provide manned and unmanned maritime attack and combat support capabilities to the fleet. HSC-22's inherent versatility provides full-spectrum warfighting support across multiple mission-sets and diverse and distributed platforms.