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News Link • Military

Navy Will Have to Wait Before Amassing Its Robo-Copter Fleet

•, Noah Shachtman and Spencer Ackerman
 The MQ-8 Fire Scout does it all, from hunting for drugs at sea to spotting insurgents over the battlefields of Afghanistan. But like that early iPhone, the Fire Scout is seriously buggy — so much so that the Defense Department has conceded it will be forced to seriously delay buying all the robocopters it wants.

The Pentagon won’t even be able to evaluate how the Fire Scout has performed at sea and at war until December of next year – 19 months behind schedule. As a result, the system won’t reach its “initial operating capability,” a key measurement for weapons purchases, until June 2014; that’s a mark the Navy was supposed to hit last May, the Defense Department notes in a recent “selected acquisition report,” (.pdf) first obtained by InsideDefense. The decision whether to push ahead with full production of all 175 Fire Scouts has been similarly pushed back.

The basic problem: ”Reliability and sustainability concerns compounded by competing [Fire Scout] fleet operational needs,” Naval Air Systems Command spokesperson Jamie Cosgrove tells Danger Room. That’s been a persistent issue for the nearly $2.8 billion Fire Scout program, which is the Navy’s first stab at developing a helicopter that pilots fly remotely. But while the iPhone dropped calls and apps crashed unexpectedly, there are higher stakes for the Fire Scout’s woes.

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