The US Navy issued a $42 million contract last week to convert eight Army Fire Scouts to “Navy configuration,” with the goal that the aircraft will be ready for service by 2013.
Jamie Cosgrove, a spokeswoman for Naval Air Systems Command, says “The Army aircraft are just bare airframes without any specific avionics, Army or Navy. The extent of the effort is to ensure they are ready to take on the Navy avionics and make the minor design corrections to the airframes.”
For now, the helicopters will just be basic unmanned surveillance aircraft, but the Navy could someday arm the Fire Scout with torpedoes to hunt submarines or missiles to attack other ships at sea. Planners have even talked about having two Fire Scouts hunt in tandem, one flying low over the ocean to search for submarines, another staying high so it can send information back to its mother ship and, if necessary, relay orders to its partner to attack.