Larger Firescout UAS. Too Big for the Coast Guard?

For quite some time the Coast Guard has been planning on putting helicopter like Unmanned Aerial Systems on their ships. Interest has centered on the Navy’s MQ-8B Firescout. I suspect the hangar designs for the National Security Cutters and Offshore Patrol Cutters were based in part on the size of the MQ-8B.

File:US Navy 100514-N-0000X-001 Civilian artisans from Fleet Readiness Center East perform maintenance and corrosion assessments .jpg

United States Navy photo with the ID 100514-N-0000X-001, MQ-8B (smaller UAS) undergoing maintenance

Now DefenseNews is reporting¬†the Navy is announcing they will stop production of the 3,150 pound max gross weight “B” model and go to a much larger 6,000 pound max gross weight “C” model based on the Bell 407 Jet Ranger. This aircraft is not only approaches the size of the H-65, it is actually longer.

File:PHI Bell 407.jpg

Bell 407 Jet Ranger, photo from Gerry Metzler, IMG_383

The larger MQ-8C certainly offers advantages over the smaller “B” model, including the ability to maintaining 24/7 surveillance with only three flights a day. The Navy believes they will be able to deploy three on their frigates and two in addition to an H-60 on the LCSs. The NSCs probably have adequate space, but it is unclear if the space provided for in the specifications for the Offshore Patrol Cutters will allow them the emulate the LCSs’ aviation facilities or if they will be able to carry even one of these larger UAS in addition to a manned helicopter.