By George Jagels
As the only DoD Program of Record for unmanned vertical takeoff and landing, and one tied to a major but downsizing Navy acquisition project, the Littoral Combat Ship, the Fire Scout is under quite a bit of performance and budgetary pressure. The Navy has purchased 17 of the new MQ-8C variant, but zeroed out acquisition from 2014-2019 in its most recent budget request.
Admiral Mathias Winter, the Navy’s Program Executive Officer for Unmanned Strike Weapons, said that his service’s budget still requests procurement funding for ground control stations (GCSs) and other essential equipment to operate the C variant. “The reason you see zero quantities in [the budget] is because with the 23 MQ-8Bs and 17 MQ-8Cs we already purchased, based on LCS deployments that is enough air vehicles for now,” he said. An LCS can hold two MQ-8Cs and an MH-60S Seahawk.