Speaker Briefing: Lieutenant Brendan “BradChad” McGinnis USN


At the February 8, 2024 meeting, the Grampaw Pettibone Squadron were privileged to have Lieutenant Brendan “BradChad” McGinnis USN speak to the group.  The Lieutenant is on active-duty with Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 23 and an SJO.  He attended Duquesne University and was a member of the NROTC unit.

He was selected for US Navy pilot training in his junior year and upon graduation began his military career.  Between 2014-2016 Lieutenant McGinnis attended flight school assigned to the US Navy Helicopter Training Squadrons       VT-3/HT-18.  He completed flight training and was selected as an MH-60S pilot with Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron HSC-3, where he was stationed fom 2016-2018.  From 2018-2021, he was with HSC-23 flying the MH-60S and subsequently trained to fly the MQ-8B Firescout.  From 2021-2023, he was assigned as a flight instructor with HT-28.  Since 2023, the Lieutenant returned to HSC-23 as a SJO and was assigned to fly the MQ-8C.

The MQ-8B Fire Scout is an unmanned autonomous helicopter, developed by Northrop Grumman for use by the United States Armed Forces. The Fire Scout is designed to provide reconnaissance, situational awareness, aerial fire support and precision targeting support for ground, air and sea forces.    The larger MQ-8C, based on the Bell 407 airframe, incorporates the same control avionics as the MQ-8B but with an increased payload capacity and increased endurance. The air vehicles share a common mission control system, which is integrated with the ship’s combat systems.

In speaking about the MQ-8 family, Lieutenant McGinnis opened with an overview of the aircraft versions, and then identified the support systems and equipment accompanying the aircraft.  A question was posed regarding the communication range for the aircraft.  The communication range is 130 miles with an additional surveillance range of 150 miles, which provides the mission operator with over 280-mile range to identify targets from the base.  The aircraft is capable of only remotely piloted operation.

The Command and Control (C2) systems that support the operation of the MQ-8 can be installed as a permanent Mission Control Station onboard a suitably equipped LCS or ashore.  Both a Mobile Mission Control Station (MMCS) as well as a Mission Control Station Portable (MCS-P) are available.  The MMCS is the standard for both land-based as well as ship board configuration.

When deployed aboard an LCS, the mission aircraft and staff complement is a composite HSC unit of  MH-60S and MQ-8 aircraft with a crew of 25 personnel, 5 officers and 20 enlisted.  The personnel are trained to service and support both manned and unmanned aircraft.  The crews are trained for surface warfare or mine-countermeasures.  Currently there are two ships equipped with 5 aircraft each, one for each squadron and will remain on station for 24 months.  Depending on mission requirements, there could be four or six ships deployed with a similar complement.

The communication systems include ARC-210 radios with UHF/VHF capability – air vehicle C2.  A Tactical Common Data Link (TCDL) using Ku band will enable data transfer and payload control for Unmanned Common Air Vehicle.  A Recovery System (UCARS) is installed for precision shipboard recovery, though not needed on shore.    

The capability of the MQ-8C aircraft enables operators to identify targets through a variety of systems as noted in the payload options listed above.  The MQ-8C mission does not include weapons systems to be used against hostile targets.

Lieutenant McGinnis shared more detail about the EO/IR (Electro Optical/Infrared) system.  This is a Battle-Ready Infrared Targeting device.  It contains three EO fields of view and five IR fields of view.   The equipment is equipped with a: laser designator, laser pointer, eye-safe laser rangefinder and azimuth and elevation adjustable feature.  This functionality enables target dimensions to be calculated and the target to be displayed on a map for operator viewing.

Our speaker shared with the audience an overview of his first tour deployment beginning in 2020.  Initially assigned to an operation in Guam and just as he was ready for his assignment, the effects of Covid hit, which changed everything.  Operations became a challenge and as time progressed, the Lieutenant swapped mission sets and relocated as part of ISR assignment with an Airborne Use of Force Counter Drug (AUFCD) program off the coast of Columbia, where he had to read about the assignment, having not been told what it was.  Following a 10-day familiarization, the Lieutenant was assigned as an instructor.  In order to execute mission requirements, a joint program with local law enforcement was part of the setup.  The working schedule for the counter drug assignments were from 6pm-6am daily.  The team made 8 drug busts and confiscated over 6,000 kilos of Cocaine, 4,144 pounds of Marijuana, and detained 21 individuals.

Upon completion of the AUFCD mission and returning in 2023, the Lieutenant joined the HSC-23 Super JO Tour as NATOPS Officer and assigned to unit Resolute Hunter 24-1 on San Nicolas Island.  This was a joint coalition exercise between the US/CAN/UK/AUS.  The exercises were to conduct ISR missions operating an MQ-8C aircraft.   During the mission a number of first-time events occurred.  The MQ-8C landed for the first time on the island and carried the first internal cargo.  At the conclusion of this assignment, the Lieutenant is slated to be stationed with a unit in the area around Singapore and the South China Sea.

In concluding his presentation, Lieutenant McGinnis summarized the role and capability of the MQ-8C Fire Scout.

  • ISR picture heavily outshines shipboard capability
  • There is less risk and fatigue for crews on detachment
  • Multiple functionality and big windows of collection data
  • An organic ISR platform for single ship operation



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