Navy developing new MQ-8 mine countermeasure system

By Audrey Decker / March 2, 2022 at 10:11 AM

The Navy will demonstrate a new mine countermeasure sensor suite on the MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter this spring.

The sensor suite will enable the Fire Scout to detect and localize mines and other obstacles on land and at sea, according to a Navy statement issued today.

The Navy is working to execute the final phase of the Single System Multi-Mission Airborne Mine Detection Future Naval Capability Program, according to the release.

“The SMAMD system, developed by BAE Systems, utilizes an airborne optical sensor suite that will have the ability to have real-time onboard processing coupled with low false-alarm rates [that] will enable the warfighter to respond swiftly to detected threats,” the Navy states.

Northrop Grumman’s Fire Scout, a vertical lift unmanned aerial vehicle used for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting capabilities, deployed operationally on Dec. 14 aboard the Littoral Combat Ship Milwaukee (LCS-5).

In February, the Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Two Four conducted flying qualities and performance testing on MQ-8C with “mass equivalency models in place of the prototype system pods, which mimic the size and weight of the SMAMD System,” the press release states.

This spring, the Navy will hold a land-based demonstration of the MCM prototype at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Panama City, FL, to gather performance data for the Fire Scout and SMAMD system, the press release states.

The program office will continue to gather information to help integrate Block II of the Coastal Battlefield Reconnaissance and Analysis airborne mine detection systems onto MQ-8C, Capt. Thomas Lansley, Fire Scout program director, said in today’s release.

MQ-8B is currently outfitted with COBRA Block I. The Navy announced its plan to procure COBRA Block II in December, which would conduct aerial tactical reconnaissance for detection and localization of mines.