Northrop Grumman [NOC] said yesterday that its MQ-8B Fire Scout Vertical Takeoff Unmanned Aerial Vehicle provided critical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) support to special operations forces and U.S. Navy anti-piracy actions during the system’s second at-sea deployment.

Two Fire Scout air vehicles were deployed aboard the USS Halyburton (FFG-40) at the beginning of January and tasked to provide ISR support for anti-piracy operations conducted by the Navy’s 5th Fleet, according to a press release.

"This deployment was the first opportunity since deploying on the USS McInerney (FFG-8) for the Navy to fully use Fire Scout operationally," said George Vardoulakis, vice president for tactical unmanned systems for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. "The system was involved in three different anti-piracy actions; participated in operations over Libya; and supported a Strait of Hormuz transit with the ship’s SH-60B helicopter–a valuable manned and unmanned aircraft operation that allows ship commanders to extend their awareness at greater distances from the ship."

In the six-month deployment, the system flew for more than 435 hours and maintained a sortie completion rate of more than 80 percent. To date, the system has flown for more than 2,500 hours. Approximately 1,200 of those hours were accrued during operational deployments with the Halyburton and in Afghanistan, the company added.

Fire Scout features a modular architecture that accommodates a variety of electro-optical, infrared and communications payloads. The air vehicle’s operational flexibility makes it particularly well suited for supporting littoral missions such as drug interdiction, search and rescue, reconnaissance and port security.