Deployed Forces: Remotely operated aircraft aids TF Wings surveillance mission

| April 2, 2010 | 0 Comments

Story and Photo by
Staff Sgt. Mike Alberts
25th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq – It’s invisible to the enemy, can cover distances of up to 250 kilometers, fly at altitudes of 20,000 feet for more than 10 hours, and gather and transmit visual information in real time to ground force commanders.

What is it?

It’s the Hunter — a 23-foot long, remotely operated, unmanned aircraft system maintained and operated by a team of aviation Soldiers with Troop F, 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, Task Force Diamond Head, and approximately 30 Northrop Grumman Corporation civilian contractors, here.

Ground crew contractors of Northrop Grumman Corporation quickly move to recover and transport a Hunter Unmanned Aircraft System from a runway at Contingency Operating Base Speicher, near Tikrit, Iraq, March 14. The Hunter is maintained and operated by a team of aviation Soldiers with Troop F, 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, Task Force Diamond Head, 25th Infantry Division, and approximately 30 Northrop civilian contractors. To those it serves, the aircraft is an invaluable and indispensable part of Task Force Wings and 3rd Infantry Division operations throughout U.S. Division-North.

“We have used the Hunter for counter-indirect fire and counter-improvised exploding device operations, as well as multiple manned and unmanned teaming operations, which has led to the detention of indirect fire cells among other things,” said Maj. Robert Bryant, UH-60 Black Hawk pilot and executive officer, 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, Task Force Diamond Head.

His unit has experienced the full spectrum of benefits from the Hunter since TF Diamond Head began conducting partnered Iraqi and U.S. operations, here, last October.

Among its tactical advantages, the Hunter provides Soldiers with state-of-the-art intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, along with target acquisition and communications relay platforms.

“The Hunter provides division-level intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance every day, nearly 24 hours-a-day,” he added. “It directly links the customer via communication (systems) to aviation command and control elements and to ground force commanders with real time information.”

Unlike more traditional ISR assets, especially manned assets, the Hunter requires far less maintenance and operational infrastructure.

“In operational battlefield situational awareness, you simply cannot get those benefits anywhere else in combination,” Bryant said. “The Hunter has better capabilities than traditional ISR. Its reconnaissance continuity and persistence is unmatched.”

In addition to logistical and maintenance needs, Hunter operations require one external pilot and five personnel to serve as ground crew to launch and land it; a UAS operator working from an on-site launch shelter for operations during the launch and recovery phase; and, finally, a UAS operator in a mission control shelter who handles flying the Hunter above certain altitudes.

“Our mission is to be division’s ‘eyes and ears on the battlefield,’” said. Capt. Brian Hunt, the command officer tasked to manage and orchestrate Hunter operations in USD-N. “To do it, we rely on seven warrant officers, all rotary wing aviators, and a significant Northrop Grumman contractor team who are all UAS operators and maintainers.”

Hunt’s unit is one of the few significantly augmented by and partnered with civilian contractors.
The Hunter has flown almost 400 missions and logged more than 2,270 hours of flight time. 

Category: Deployed Forces, News

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