The US Navy has grounded its fleet of MQ-8C Fire Scouts after two of the unmanned helicopters were involved in separate accidents within a week.
One mishap happened in Maryland on November 16 and the other six days earlier in California, Military.com reported citing the Naval Safety Center.
“All MQ-8C flights and ground rotor turns are on operational pause during the investigation,” said spokesperson of the Naval Air Systems Command Jamie Cosgrove, the website reported.
Blade Hits Ground, Separates From Aircraft
The latest incident happened when the aircraft’s lithium battery was being tested while the vehicle was idling on the ground at Maryland’s Webster Field. Then the craft’s rotor “tipped to the forward right side of the (Fire Scout) far enough to contact the ground,” Cosgrove said, reported by Navy Times.
The contact reportedly caused blade separation.
“This appears to have severed the hardwire connection between the (Fire Scout) and the (maintenance laptop),” Cosgrove added. “There were no injuries or damaged infrastructure.”
The November 10 mishap took place at Naval Air Station Point Mugu in California, Military.com reported, when a Fire Scout crashed during its final approach to a designated touchdown point. No one was injured in the incident.
Damage Total Over $2.5 Million
Both mishaps were designated “Class A” accidents, the website reported, meaning the aircraft suffered at least $2.5 million or more in damage.
The navy has launched an inquiry into both incidents, however, officials refused to discuss possible causes for the mishaps.
“We will examine the results of the investigation and apply lessons learned throughout the force as appropriate so that we can become even better operators and maintainers,” said Cmdr. Zach Harrell, a Naval Air Forces spokesman.
The latest variant in the Fire Scout series, the MQ-8C is a sea-based, vertical lift unmanned system used mainly for intelligence gathering, surveillance, reconnaissance, and targeting missions.
MQ-8Cs have seen in excess of 2,000 hours flight time and efforts have been made to arm them with Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System APKWS laser-guided rockets.
Two squadrons operate the aircraft, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 23 on the West Coast and HSC-22 on the East Coast.