The US Navy's MQ-8B Fire Scout VTUAV will soon operate an advanced sensor named Coastal Battlefield Reconnaissance and Analysis (COBRA), that will give it increased ability to detect and destroy enemy mines and submarines from LCSs (Littoral Combat Ships).
In words of Capt. Jeff Dodge, Fire Scout program manager, “COBRA is currently in Initial Operational Test and Evaluation on the MQ-8B and is projected to reach Initial Operational Capability this year.” COBRA’s primary function will be detecting mines and submarines while keeping the LCS and its crew at a safe distance: Given that the Littoral Combat Ships are engineered to use its shallow draft, speed and maneuverability to conduct combat operations in littoral waters near enemy coastlines, an improved technological capacity to find and detect enemy mines and submarines near the surface will expand its mission envelope and provide an extra protection for offensive ship operations.
The Navy is also integrating a new maritime search radar to its larger Fire Scout variant MQ-8C in order to extend its ISR capacity and provide better targeting support to nearby offensive operations. For this purpose, recently awarded Northrop Grumman a $32 million contract modification to conduct systems engineering, technical review and extensive testing of that new radar. ¿Return of Investment? Bearing in mind the existing EO/IR sensors on the MQ-8C have a range of 6-10 miles, and considering that the new maritime radar will find targets at ranges out to 80 miles, the ROI is undoubt.