Thursday, May 2, 2013

Manned-Unmanned Helo Squadron

A Navy Times website article today (Julie Watson, 2-May-13) announces the establishment of a combined manned and unmanned helicopter squadron, HSL-35, which will operate 8 unspecified Seahawk type helos and 10 MQ-8B Fire Scouts from the LCS.  This is fine.  UAVs have a role to play.  However, the claims for UAVs far exceed any reasonable real world performance.  For example, the article states,

“… the Fire Scout can hover over an enemy target, maintaining contact …”
The Fire Scout, for any who may not be familiar with it, is simply an unmanned helo: not very stealthy and not very fast.  An enemy target is going to allow it to hover over its position?  Maybe if we’re fighting some third world idiots armed with BB guns.  An actual enemy with a real military would simply shoot down the Fire Scout in short order.

Again, I have no problem with UAVs but the abilities claimed for them are far too often simply ridiculous. 


  1. “… the Fire Scout can hover over an enemy target, maintaining contact …”

    What is it with systems like the LCS, Fire scout, etc that lead to statements which even the average person can see and go "Wait a minute...isn't that kind know.....stupid?".

    I think we need to take what we have learned from the fire scout program and move on. From what I've heard its a damn disaster. Slow, short ranged, and like a child has a tendency to wander off.

    A platform that is faster and able to perform better would I think be better and the software Definitely needs to be worked on.

  2. "HSL-35, which will operate 8 unspecified Seahawk type helos..."

    HS (Helicopter Anti-submarine) = SH-60F
    HSL (Helicopter Anti-submarine Light) = SH-60B
    HSM (Helicopter Martitime Strike) = MH-60R
    HSC (Helcopter Sea Combat) = MH-60S

    I am fairly certain Navy Times has made a mistake in their article. HSL-35 converted from the Bravo to Romeo in 2011-12 and thus was redesignated from HSL to HSM.

  3. “An actual enemy with a real military would simply shoot down the Fire Scout in short order."

    Although the Navy Times article is vague, I doubt the author was talking about hovering over an enemy naval vessel. That's the wrong place for any type of aircraft to be!

    I could see use in Fire Scout hovering at reasonably high altitude over a suspected pirate skiff. If it could stay up at say 1,000 ft, it could still keep persistent 'eyes on' the target while maintaining itself out of small arms range.

    I personally don't think every capability the Navy procures can - or should be - utilzed in major power war. Fire Scout probably isn't much use in a major power war, but fills an important low-intensity niche for persistent sea-based ISR.

    1. Anon, you offer an excellent comment, especially your last couple sentences. Well said and very perceptive. My concern is that the Navy does not see the issue as clearly as you do. Recall that Fire Scout was, at one time (who knows now?), going to be one of the main "weapons" of the LCS. Now, that either indicates that the Navy saw the LCS as a low intensity vessel, contrary to their own claims, or they believe the Fire Scout will be a major weapon system in which case they are seriously deluded. Given the history of horrendous to questionable decisions associated with the LCS, I'm afraid that the Navy really does see the Fire Scout as something more than it is and that doesn't bode well for an already challenged and generally impotent ship.

  4. Well pointed. MQ-8B is good for tracking a pirate vessel or guerilas. For real combat it would only distract attention as false target.
    From my point of view as a modeller it is a sweet small heicopter that perfectly fits my collection, just between SOC and QH-50.


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