In recent years, the Navy’s Fire Scout robotic helicopters have racked up quite a resume: Drug busts off the coast of Latin America, counter-piracy missions off the shores of Africa and even covert surveillance in the skies above Afghanistan. But now, the drone ‘copters are going on an indefinite hiatus.
Operations of the MQ-8B Fire Scout will be suspended “for the indefinite future,” after the robo-copters were involved in two recent crashes. The news was first reported by FlightGlobal.com, and confirmed by Danger Room.
On March 30th, off the coast of west Africa, a technical glitch kept one Fire Scout from being able to land on the U.S.S. Simpson. “After multiple approaches and exhaustive troubleshooting by operators, the aircraft was positioned a safe distance from U.S.S. Simpson and the flight was terminated,” the Navy says in a statement. The Fire Scout dropped into the ocean, and then was recovered by the ship’s crew.
Days later, on April 6th, another one of the robo-copters appears to have crashed during surveillance operations in northern Afghanistan. “The cause of the crash is unknown at this time,” according to the Navy. But “in light of the recent mishaps, the Navy has temporarily suspended Fire Scout flight operations for 14 air vehicles in inventory while system performance and operational procedures are reviewed.”
Until now, Navy admirals have been staunch supporters of the troubled robo-copters. Despite a series of mishaps, the Navy as recently as this past summer was still keen on adding even more Fire Scouts to their growing fleet. But that was before these most recent crashes...