SAN DIEGO - The first Navy helicopter squadron to include manned and unmanned aircraft was established during a ceremony Thursday at NAS North Island.
Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 35, the "Magicians," has been outfitted with what the Navy calls its most technologically advanced helicopter, the Sikorsky Multi Mission MH60-R.
It also has the Fire Scout MQ-8 B, a drone that looks and flies like a regular helicopter. The Fire Scout recently was added to the fleet, according to the Navy.
"This, I believe, points to the future of naval aviation," said Vice Adm. David Buss, commander of Naval Air Forces.
The remotely operated Fire Scout, produced by Northrop Grumman will deploy with the MH60-R aboard one of the Navy's newest ships, the littoral combat ship.
"Our initial plan is to deploy two Fire Scouts with one of the MH-60-R's," said Buss, but the operation ink he said is still being written.
The Navy says the unmanned chopper can be operated from up to 110 miles away.
Researched and developed at the Northrop-Grumman facility in Rancho Bernardo, the second version of the unmanned aerial vehicle is already under way.
"When the Navy was convinced that the concept would work, they wanted something that goes farther, carries more and can stay up longer," said Ret. Adm. Jim Zortman, now the program manager for Fire Scout.
The UAV was put through extensive testing both at sea and in Afghanistan.
The Navy hopes the initial deployment of manned and unmanned aircraft will take place next spring on board USS Fort Worth.
The squadron will deploy on the new littoral combat ships -- fast, highly maneuverable vessels designed for fighting in coastal waters.
Watch Northrop Grumman video of the Fire Scout's ship testing:
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