Unmanned Helicopter Crashes Into Navy Ship
How many US tax dollars were lost as a result of this mishap?
The article at the bottom of this message suggests that the cost to US tax
payers was ~$27.5 million per aircraft. Of course, that doesn't include the
cost of accident investigation, damage repair, etc....
Unmanned Helicopter Crashes Into Navy Ship
Kate O'Connor April 28, 2021
Image: U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Adam Butler
An unmanned MQ-8B Fire Scout helicopter crashed into the side of USS
Charleston shortly after taking off from the ship on Monday. No one was
injured in the incident, but U.S. Navy officials reported that the aircraft
fell into the water and was not recovered. The crash occurred at
approximately 3:40 p.m. local time.
“The mishap damaged a safety net on the ship and struck the hull,” the U.S.
Third Fleet said in a statement. “Damage to the ship is being assessed, but
appears limited to an area above the waterline. Charleston continues
operations in the Western Pacific.”
The aircraft was assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 21, which is
based out of California’s Naval Air Station North Island. The cause of the
accident is under investigation. The Northrop Grumman MQ-8B Fire Scout is a
vertical take-off and landing tactical unmanned aerial vehicle (VTUAV)
measuring 31.7 feet long.
MQ-8B Fire Scout Crashes Into Littoral Combat Ship USS Charleston On
By: Megan Eckstein
April 27, 2021 4:26 PM • Updated: April 27, 2021 6:19 PM
PACIFIC OCEAN (March 27, 2021) Sailors charge the battery of an MQ-8B Fire
Scout unmanned aerial vehicle aboard Independence-variant littoral combat
ship USS Charleston (LCS 18), March 27. Charleston is currently operating in
U.S. Third Fleet. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd
Class Adam Butler)
An MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicle crashed into the side of
Littoral Combat Ship USS Charleston (LCS-18) after taking off from the ship
today, the Navy announced.
The rotary-wing UAV was operating from the ship around 9:40 a.m. when the
collision happened in the Western Pacific, according to a U.S. 3rd Fleet
The UAV fell into the sea and was not recovered, the release reads.
“The mishap damaged a safety net on the ship and struck the hull. Damage to
the ship is being assessed, but appears limited to an area above the
USS Charleston (LCS-18) during acceptance trials on July 18, 2018. Austal
“No one was injured, and the Littoral Combat Ship continued to safely
operate after the incident,” the news release continues. The cause of the
mishap is under investigation.
Charleston began its maiden deployment earlier this month with the Gold Crew
aboard, conducting a live-fire event in early April that included a Rolling
Airframe Missile (SeaRAM) launch. The training event was overseen by Naval
Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC), and shortly after
completion of the SMWDC training the ship left San Diego. A Navy official
told USNI News Charleston was operating on its way to Guam when the mishap
with the Fire Scout occurred.
The Navy news release notes the MQ-8B Fire Scout is nearly 32 feet long and
10 feet tall. It is assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21,
based out of Naval Air Station North Island, and operates as part of a
manned-unmanned team of Fire Scouts and MH-60 helicopters as part of the LCS
surface warfare mission package.
Unit Costs Surge for MQ-8 Fire Scout Drone
18 Apr 2014
The Navy's drone helicopter, the Air Force's precision-landing system and
the Army's digital radio for ground troops are among the Pentagon's weapons
programs whose unit costs surged in the past year.
The Navy's MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned chopper developed by Northrop Grumman
Corp. and the Air Force's Joint Precision Approach and Landing System
developed by Raytheon Co. had "critical" cost overruns of more than 50
percent over original projections, according to a summary of the Defense
Department's latest Selected Acquisition Reports.
The size of the increases triggered a law requiring congressional
notification and may put the programs at risk of cancellation. Frank
Kendall, the Pentagon's top weapons buyer, will make a decision whether to
re-certify the acquisition efforts "no later than June 17, 2014, as required
by law," according to the document released Thursday.
The Navy has already nixed plans to buy 17 more Fire Scouts over the next
five years as part of its budget request for fiscal 2015, which begins Oct.
1. The move left the future of the program unclear.
Warren Comer, a spokesman for Falls Church, Va.-based Northrop, said Fire
Scout has proven to be "highly successful" program. The company since 2011
has made three significant upgrades to the platform, including endurance,
weapons and radar enhancements to support various types of missions, he
"These upgrades, originally contracted as separate rapid deployment efforts,
are now being incorporated into the baseline program of record," Comer said
in an e-mail. "This allows the Fire Scout system to spend greater time
supporting missions with fewer aircraft."
In other acquisition efforts, the Navy's E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and
Control System Block 40/45 Upgrade developed by Boeing Co. and the Army's
Joint Tactical Radio System's Handheld, Manpack and Small Form Fit program
developed by General Dynamics Corp. had "significant" overruns, according to
The law, known as Nunn-McCurdy, was enacted in 1982 to give lawmakers a
better sense of problems with weapons procurement, though rarely is the
reporting process used to actually cancel programs.
The MQ-8 Fire Scout is an unmanned helicopter developed under the Vertical
Takeoff and Landing Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle program, or VTUAV. It's
designed to fly from warships and provide troops with surveillance and fire
The Navy plans to buy a total of 126 of the aircraft, including seven
prototypes and 119 production models, for an overall cost of $3.47 billion
-- a 24-percent increase from the original estimate of $2.79 billion,
according to the Pentagon report. The price tag increased despite a planned
reduction in aircraft, from 177 to 126, or 51 vehicles.
The increase in unit cost was "due to an increased requirement for
warfighter capabilities of the system and an overall reduction in the total
air vehicle quantities being procured," from 177 to 126, or 51 aircraft, the
document states. Specific unit cost figures weren't given, but based on the
figures above, they increased more than 70 percent, from about $15.7 million
per aircraft to about $27.5 million per aircraft.
In its fiscal 2015 budget request, the Navy "made a decision to streamline
the maritime Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance portfolio by
combining previously developed MQ-8 Fire Scout rapid deployment capabilities
(endurance upgrade, radar, and weapons) into the Program of Record (POR),"
Jamie Cosgrove, a Navy spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. "The Department
determined that transitioning these capabilities was a cost-effective
investment to support LCS missions," she said, referring to the Littoral
The Navy stopped production of the MQ-8B after buying 30 of the aircraft
with the Schweizer 333 airframe, according to a separate Pentagon test
report from earlier this year. The service wants to switch to the Bell 407
airframe for the MQ-8C, another version of the drone based in part on
requirements from U.S. Special Operations Command.
While the service has successfully integrated the Advanced Precision Weapon
Kill System, which converts unguided Hydra rockets into precision-guided
missiles, on the Fire Scout, "additional sea-based testing is required
before the Navy can field a sea-based, weaponized unmanned aerial system,"
the test report states.
With more than 40 Fire Scouts in the inventory or on order, the Navy has
indicated it has enough of the aircraft to support a reduced fleet of
Littoral Combat Ships. Due in part to automatic budget cuts known as
sequestration, the service cut the number of the surface vessels it planned
to buy to 32 from 52.
(Story was updated to correct overall cost increase, and add unit cost
figures and quotes from Navy spokeswoman beginning in the 10th paragraph.)
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