The 1st Cavalry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team is deployed to Afghanistan and utilizing the Shadow unmanned aerial system daily. Chief Warrant Officer-3 Randall Wise, UAS technician, and 1st Lt. Scott McCarthy, platoon leader, both of the UAS Platoon, of Alpha Company, 4th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, were able to answer some questions through email about the Shadow.
How can UAS benefit the mission in Afghanistan?
UAS provide aerial coverage and force protection for troop movement on the ground, thus improving overall security. UAS provide improved situational awareness to the ground commander from a unique perspective.
Can you describe some of the ways UAS can be used to support a mission that soldiers or manned aircraft can’t? Is it safety or is physical limitations?
There are many benefits that UAS have over manned aircraft. For one, UAS can be rapidly deployed to a mission and require very little preparation time in advance. UAS have the ability to travel to remote areas which may be physically inaccessible to soldiers on the ground without the need for a qualified pilot. UAS are called upon frequently to provide overwatch of potentially dangerous areas before manned assets conduct operations in those areas, thus mitigating risk for those individuals. Additionally, since the crew is operating the aircraft from a mission shelter on the ground, the payload (camera) operators have the time and focus required to observe the target and search for potential threats while the aircraft operator spends his time monitoring his/her instruments and adjusting the flight parameters.
During your time in the Army, have you witnessed the progression of UAS-use on the battlefield, and what impact has it made?
The original concept of the TUAS was to deploy quickly and provide the commander with enemy formations and location on a fluid battlefield. In Iraq, TUAS was used in various missions including route, area reconnaissance and screening operations. It provides convoy coverage and small team coverage extremely effectively. The TUAS was used with other manned aviation asset teams very successfully.
Is there anything else you can share about UAS that you think is interesting or think the public might find interesting?
The Shadow is a very effective, low cost, low maintenance, low footprint aviation asset that could find itself performing border operations and similar missions to those in Iraq and Afghanistan; securing the border and seeking out nefarious activity and people of interest.