During a post-maintenance check flight earlier this month, a Northrop Grumman [NOC] MQ-8B Fire Scout Vertical Take-off and Landing Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (VTUAV) supported its first drug interdiction with the USS McInerney (FFG-8) and a Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET), the Navy reported yesterday.

McInerney launched one of its two embarked Fire Scouts to test different functions and settings when it acquired a suspected narcotics "go-fast" using the aircraft’s Forward Looking Infrared Systems BRITE Star II EO/IR sensor. The Mission Payload Operator completed testing and received permission to pursue, the Navy said.

Over the course of three hours, Fire Scout monitored the go-fast with McInerney. With its state-of-the-art optics and extremely small profile, Fire Scout was able to maintain an unprecedented covert posture while feeding real-time video back to McInerney, the Navy added.

Fire Scout proceeded to capture video of the "go-fast" meeting with a fishing vessel for what appeared to be a refueling/logistics transfer. McInerney and its embarked USCG LEDET moved in, seized approximately 60 kilos of cocaine and caused the suspected traffickers to jettison another approximately 200 kilos of narcotics, the Navy added.

Fire Scout has been deployed onboard McInerney in the Eastern Pacific since October 2009. McInerney, with embarked Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron (Light) 42 Detachment 7 (HSL Det 7), is conducting counter illicit trafficking (CIT) operations in support of Joint Interagency Task Force-South in the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility. The embarked Fire Scout VTUAVs are operated and maintained by a team from HSL 42 Det 7, the Navy Fire Scout Program Office, and Northrop Grumman, the Navy said.

Fire Scout will eventually be deployed from the Littoral Combat Ship as a key component of the ship’s mission packages.