US Marine Corps Helicopters and US Navy MQ-8C Fly Together for Manned-unmanned Teaming
Marines from Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron One (VMX-1) and sailors from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 23 (HSC-23) teamed up to conduct tactics development in integrating manned and unmanned rotary-wing aircraft at Naval Air Facility El Centro, California on March 10, 2022. During the exercise, VMX-1’s UH-1Y Venom and AH-1Z Viper helicopters conducted attacks while Marines and sailors operating in the ground control station assisted with the target detection and strike coordination utilizing a MQ-8C Fire Scout. The mission of VMX-1 is to conduct operational test and evaluation of Marine Corps aviation platforms and systems.
“This opportunity promotes greater familiarization and concept development of the manned-unmanned teaming that builds confidence and efficiency throughout the Blue-Green Team. Our partnership plays an integral part of the Commandant vision to embrace the future of warfare and turn it into our advantage on the battlefield,” said VMX-1 Commanding Officer Col. Byron Sullivan.
“Adversaries are going to be placed on the horns of a dilemma as we strengthen our naval expeditionary force in leveraging unmanned systems to complement our rotary wing,” said VMX-1 Science and Technology lead Maj. Ben Henry.
A UH-1Y Venom (left) and an AH-1Z Viper (center) both with Marine Operational and Test Evaluation Squadron 1 (VMX-1), fly with an MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 23 (HSC-23), during Strike Coordination and Reconnaissance Training for their pre-deployment work up near El Centro, California, March 10, 2022. This training provided familiarization opportunities with Unmanned Aircraft Systems and manned aircraft working simultaneously. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Andres Hernandez)
The services continue to develop manned-unmanned tactics to better align with the 2018 National Defense Strategy and the Commandant’s Planning Guidance. As the exercise in El Centro progressed, the Navy-Marine Corps team became more proficient in planning, communicating, and coordinating effective fires from manned and unmanned rotary-wing aircraft. The proliferation of unmanned rotary wing platforms on U.S. Navy ships makes integration with Marine rotary wing and the MQ-8C a likelihood in the littoral environment. The MQ-8C Fire Scout (known as the Fire-X during development) is an unmanned helicopter developed by Northrop Grumman for use by the United States Navy.
The United States Marine Corps (USMC) replaced the two-bladed AH-1W Super Cobra with the AH-1Z Viper, which features a new, four-bladed composite rotor system, performance-matched transmission, four-bladed tail rotor, upgraded landing gear and a fully integrated glass cockpit. The UH-1Y Venom replaced the UH-1N Huey and includes the latest in technology and production techniques to continue the legacy of the venerable and battle-proven H-1 helicopter design. The Bell AH-1Z and UH-1Y share 85 percent parts commonality, designed to significantly reduce life-cycle costs and the aircraft’s logistical footprint, while increasing the maintainability and deployability.
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Janae Jarnagin, crew chief, Marine Operational and Test Evaluation Squadron 1 (VMX-1), observes Strike Coordination and Reconnaissance Training from a UH-1Y Venom, near El Centro, California, March 10, 2022. The purpose of this exercise was to provide familiarization and concept development of manned-unmanned teaming. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jade Venegas)