Navy unveils first squadron with drone helicopters

The Fire Scout unmanned helicopter drone is currently flying surveillance missions in the war zone in Afghanistan. Its camera can send live television pictures of enemy positions to an operator 100 miles away. Northrop Grumman

CORONADO, Calif. The Navy is inaugurating its first squadron with both manned and unmanned aircraft.

Military officials on Thursday launched the maritime strike squadron at the Naval Air Station North Island on Coronado, near San Diego, by reactivating the "Magicians" unit, which served for 19 years before being deactivated in 1992.

Cmdr. Christopher S. Hewlett says the squadron is expected to have eight manned helicopters and 10 Fire Scout MQ-8s, an unmanned helicopter that tracks targets and eventually will be armed.

The squadron will operate the Fire Scouts from the Navy's new littoral combat ships in about a year in the Pacific.

Most Navy drones now are operated by contractors overseen by military personnel.

The first Navy air detachment formed 100 years ago.

The Air Force has various drone squadrons.

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