A ceremony took place Thursday at Naval Air Station North Island to welcome the Navy’s newest air squadron.
Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 35 will include two types of aerial vehicles: the MH-60 Romeo helicopter and the MQ-8B Fire Scout, a drone produced by North Grumman. It’s the first time the Navy has combined manned and unmanned aircraft in a squadron.
Vice Admiral David Buss, Commander of Naval Air Forces, calls the arrangement “bold, innovative and cutting edge.”
“I really believe this is the Navy’s future, and this squadron will point us into the future,” Buss said.
Commander Chris Hewlett says the unmanned vehicle can continue tracking a threat while the helicopter refuels and replenishes.
“The manned aerial vehicle that is the Romeo is a very robust platform, but it can’t stay airborne as long as a Fire Scout can,” Hewlett said.
The squadron is expected to have eight Romeo helicopters and 10 Fire Scout systems. They will operate aboard the Navy’s new littoral combat ships.
HSL-35 is expected to deploy next spring aboard USS Fort Worth, according to officials.
Drones have been widely used by the military in the past decade, allowing officials to collect information while keeping troops out of harm’s way. But there has been controversy surrounding drone use and the deaths of Americans and foreigners in attacks overseas.