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Army Achieves Dual Aviation Milestones

First 3rd Heavy Attack Reconnaissance Squadron teams Apaches, Shadow UAVs for manned/unmanned teaming

The U.S. Army reached a pair of significant aviation milestones at Ft. Bliss, Texas, on March 16, 2015. The milestones included the first unit equipped (FUE) declaration for the RQ-7BV2 Shadow Unmanned Aircraft System as well as conversion of the first Apache Battalion to a Heavy Attack Reconnaissance Squadron under the Army’s Aviation Restructure Initiative (ARI).

Lt. Col. R.J. Garcia, commander of the 3rd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, pointed to his unit’s history as the first U.S. Army unit to field Apaches, adding that they are “very proud to be the first unit to convert to this new organization.”

The Army’s Project Office for Unmanned Aircraft Systems completed the Shadow V2 UAS fielding to the 1/501st Aviation Battalion, 1st Armored Division’s Combat Aviation Brigade, with that unit then “re-flagged” as the 3rd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment.

“The reflagging ceremony recognized the first unit to be equipped with the Shadow v2,” said Lt. Col. Tory Burgess, product manager for Shadow Tactical UAS. “The reflagging ceremony is years worth of planning, development, testing, and production. We are finally getting to the point where we field two to three systems a month to the entire U.S. Army including the Combat Aviation Brigades.”

Lt. Col. R.J. Garcia, commander of the 3rd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, pointed to his unit’s history as the first U.S. Army unit to field Apaches, adding that they are “very proud to be the first unit to convert to this new organization.”

New capabilities that the RQ-7BV2 include:

  • Encryption protection on the video and control data links;
  • Software enhancements allowing interoperability between Army UAS platforms (Ultimately, a Shadow operator will be able to control a Gray Eagle UAS and vice versa);
  • Integration of a common control station and control terminal for all Army UAS platforms;
  • Standardization of the Shadow fleet to a single configuration, which reduces life cycle costs; and
  • Increased endurance of the Shadow aircraft, from 6 hours to 9 hours.

“If you look at the history of manned-unmanned teaming, both the Shadow and the Apache have incredible combat records,” Garcia said. “And, although manned-unmanned teaming has been going on for quite a bit, it’s never been in one unit. It’s always been units within different organizations and chains of command working together to accomplish the mission. So this merging is really about the soldier on the ground. We’re much more efficient, lethal and effective. And ultimately we provide a capability for the soldier on the ground and the commander in the field to be more lethal, effective and efficient. So because of that we have approached this fielding and reflagging to build on the great things that soldiers across multiple organizations within and outside the U.S. Army have done to be better.”

The next units scheduled to be equipped with the Shadow V2 are the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade this summer, and the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade by the end of fiscal year 2016.

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...