The crew of USS Freedom (LCS 1) demonstrated the future concept of operations for manned and unmanned helicopters underway on littoral combat ships (LCS) April 25-May 16 off the coast of San Diego. The exercise was done in preparation for deployment of the aircraft later this year.
U.S. 3rd Fleet and Carrier Strike Group 15 coordinated the demonstration aboard Freedom with both the manned, multi-mission MH-60R Seahawk, and the unmanned aerial vehicle MQ-8B Fire Scout operating together.
Both air assets were flown by Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 35, Detachment 1, aboard Freedom with a surface warfare (SUW) mission package installed. SUW provides fleet protection from small boats and other asymmetrical threats. The event informed the fleet on the status of the “system of systems” integration for the USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) deployment this fall.
HSM-35, the Navy’s first composite expeditionary helicopter squadron, became the first squadron to support LCS with both the MH-60R and MQ-8B Fire Scout. The squadron evaluated operating concepts and procedures to determine the adequacy of the composite aviation detachment manning structure of 24 people.
Among the missions used in the demonstration was a combined use of two 11-meter Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats, the MQ-8B and the MH-60R to board a vessel at sea.
LCS is expected to routinely deploy with one Fire Scout in addition to a MH-60R as part of its surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and mine countermeasures mission packages. With its sensor package, the Fire Scout will complement the MH-60R by extending the range and endurance of ship-based intelligence gathering operations.