Flawed Fire Scout charms Navy

DOD plans to double order on robotic helicopter drones

Although the MQ-8B Fire Scout robotic helicopter has only successfully completed half its assigned surveillance missions, the Defense Department has decided to double its purchases of the drones — 57 in all — for the Navy, reports Spencer Ackerman of Wired’s "Danger Room" blog.

Although the drones offer a customizable camera, sensor and radar options, and the ability to launch and land from the deck of a ship, an assessment of the Fire Scout in June by Michael Gilmore, DOD’s director of operational test and evaluation, released by InsideDefense, describes its data links as fragile and states that it cannot be depended upon to “provide time-sensitive support to ground forces.”

Still, even though the communications issues have already caused the loss of two of the spy copters and called into question the $9 million price tag for each drone, the Navy is moving forward with its use of the Fire Scouts, including sending some to Afghanistan and weighing whether to lend a few more to the Navy SEALs.

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