Army Manned-Unmanned Teaming Lands in Iraq

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CAMP TAJI, Iraq – The 4th Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment from Ft. Bliss, Texas, ended their successful tour in Southwest Asia with a Transfer of Authority Ceremony Aug. 16 at Camp Taji, Iraq.

The “Pistoleros” were attached to the 185th Theater Aviation Brigade and conducted missions throughout the Middle East and Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. During their nine-month deployment, the Pistoleros provided attack, lift, and medical evacuation support for Operation Inherent Resolve.

“Everyone had to pull their load, consistently working long hours with little time off,” said Lt. Col. Lance VanZant, commander of the 4th Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment.

As the Pistoleros return home the 3rd Squadron, 6th Air Cavalry Regiment begin their deployment in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

Task Force “Heavy Cav” is the first attack reconnaissance battalion to deploy with Shadow unmanned aerial systems. The 3rd Squadron, 6th Air Cavalry Regiment will provide both general and attack aviation support for Operation Inherent Resolve.

“You have a large banner and heavy mantle to assume,” said Col. Ronald Beckham, 185th Theater Aviation Brigade. “Your skill and ingenuity will be challenged; your reputation and honored history demonstrate that this mission will not stop you from getting the job done.”

“Heavy Cav” was the first attack reconnaissance squadron to receive the Shadow unmanned aerial system in March 2015. In order to support Operation Inherent Resolve, they will use both the AH-64 Apache Aircraft and the Shadow UAS. The Shadow provides real time video feeds to both the pilots in the Apache aircraft and to personnel in the Tactical Operations Center, which provides another channel of communication between the crews in the aircraft and to the personnel in the TOC.

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For the Record regarding drone contractors, only the military runs targeting chain

An MQ-9 Reaper sits on the flightline.

An MQ-9 Reaper sits on the flightline.

TYSONS CORNER, VA August 21, 2015 — ExecutiveBiz reported Thursday on Chris Pehrson, director of strategic development at General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, making comments on the role of contractors in the operations armed drones for the military.

Defense One first reported Wednesday the company has conducted Reaper and Predator surveillance missions for the Pentagon since April and the publication added some observers believe this could lead to greater participation from contracting firms.

“Policy-wise, I don’t see that happening,” Pehrson told Defense One.

“There’s always a government authority in a targeting chain like that. Contractors just don’t do that.”

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Contracted Operators Flying Defense Spy Missions Since Early August

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The U.S. military wants to boost its drone presence by 50 percent in four years, and it’s hiring help — beginning with General Atomics, maker of the ubiquitous Predator and Reaper UAVs, which started flying missions in early August.

Currently, Air Force crews fly 60 Predator and Reaper combat air patrols, where one CAP means keeping one aircraft in the air around the clock. The Pentagon wants to push that towards 90 by 2019, theWall Street Journal reported Monday. With Air Force drone crews worn out by wartime operations, military leaders are turning to the Army, U.S. Special Operations Command — and the defense industry.

“Government contractors would be hired to fly older Predator drones on as many as 10 flights a day, none of them strike missions,” wroteWSJ reporter Gordon Lubold.

It’s not unprecedented for the military to hire drone builders to fly them as well. Boeing does some contracted piloting on its small, unarmed ScanEagle drone, which has a ceiling of 3,500 feet and a top speed under 250 mph. But the Predator is far more capable, typically flies at 10,000-feet and, of course, an armed variant.

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Opportunity: DOD will need contracted help to expand future Predator level drone sorties

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The U.S. military wants to boost its drone presence by 50 percent in four years, and it’s hiring help — beginning with General Atomics, maker of the ubiquitous Predator and Reaper UAVs, which started flying missions in April.

Currently, Air Force crews fly 60 Predator and Reaper combat air patrols, where one CAP means keeping one aircraft in the air around the clock. The Pentagon wants to push that towards 90 by 2019, the Wall Street Journalreported Monday. With Air Force drone crews worn out by wartime operations, military leaders are turning to the Army, U.S. Special Operations Command — and the defense industry.

“Government contractors would be hired to fly older Predator drones on as many as 10 flights a day, none of them strike missions,” wrote WSJ reporter Gordon Lubold.

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Army & USSOCOM to take on additional daily drone sorties

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The Pentagon will significantly expand the number of daily drone sorties conducted around the globe during the next several years and will for the first time expand the mission beyond the Air Force, a defense official said.

The plan reflects a high-level recognition that the Air Force’s remotely piloted vehicle fleet can no longer meet the forcewide demand for combat air patrols flown by drone pilots, mainly due to severe pilot shortages.

“Demand exceeds supply in this type of mission,” Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said Monday.

The new plan aims to ratchet up the number of daily drone flights from the current level of about 60 each day to 90 by 2019, a goal that will affect long-term planning for budgets and manpower, Davis said.

The Air Force’s drone fleet will maintain its current requirement of 60 daily combat air patrols, Davis said. The Army will assume responsibility for between 10 and 20 daily sorties; U.S. Special Operations Command will provide 10 drone flights per day; and contractors will handle up to 10 additional flights, Davis said.

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Alaska arrival of Apache helicopters, as well as the Gray Eagle UAS, gives the Army world-class training opportunities

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The first of 24 AH-64 Apache helicopters were scheduled to arrive Tuesday in Alaska as part of the Army’s sweeping five-year reorganization of its aviation assets.

The Apaches, which were coming from Germany, were being delivered via an Air Force C-5 Galaxy, landing Tuesday afternoon local time at Ladd Army Airfield on Fort Wainwright.

The Apaches will be assigned to U.S. Army Alaska’s Aviation Task Force, which already has UH-60 Black Hawks and CH-47 Chinooks.

The helicopters will eventually be part of the 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. The battalion, a new unit, is scheduled to be activated in September, said Lt. Col. Alan Brown, a spokesman for U.S. Army Alaska.

The battalion’s full complement of 24 Apaches is expected to be in place by April, and they will be housed and maintained at Ladd Army Airfield, Brown said.

Soldiers for the unit have already begun to arrive, and they will continue to flow in through March, Brown said.

“The Apache provides U.S .Army Alaska a very capable attack and reconnaissance aircraft that can be used to support joint, multi-component training and operations here in Alaska or be deployed rapidly … to support partnered operations across the Pacific,” Brown said.

The Apache is the Army’s primary attack helicopter. The twin-engine, four-bladed, multi-mission aircraft was designed to fight close and deep to destroy, disrupt or delay enemy forces.

The Apache is manned by a two-person crew, and it can carry up to 16 Hellfire laser-designated missiles. It also can employ a 30mm M230 chain gun and Hydra 70 rockets, according to the Army.

The arrival of Apache helicopters as well as the Gray Eagle Unmanned Aerial System in Alaska will give the Army “world-class training opportunities in support of the Army and joint force,” said Col. John Lindsay, director of Army aviation.

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Pentagon planning 50 percent more drone flights in next 4 years

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After a brief lull, the military is doubling down on drones. A new report from The Wall Street Journal details the Pentagon’s new plan to increase daily drone flights by half, raising serious questions about the future of military drone strikes. The Pentagon currently directs 61 daily drone flights, almost all of which are used for remote surveillance. The expansion would give the Pentagon even more reconnaissance data, expanding capacity in new programs from the Army and special contractors.

Only a vanishingly small percentage of the flights involve actual strikes, but they’ll provide a crucial first step for strikes in new regions, which will require reconnaissance feeds for targeting and command support. Notably, many of the future reconnaissance efforts are intended to monitor operations in Ukraine and the South China Sea. Thus far, drone strikes have been largely confined to Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The new uptick in reconnaissance missions also won’t affect the CIA’s ongoing drone program, which has remained the most controversial, secretive, and deadly of the US’s drone operations.

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More Sophisticated, Autonomous Unmanned Aircraft on the Horizon

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Drones have become one of the most ubiquitous weapons to come out of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have given battlefield commanders unprecedented situational awareness and struck key targets all while keeping soldiers out of harm’s way.

In the future, unmanned aerial systems will hold even more utility as they become faster, stealthier and more autonomous, experts said. At the same time, they will become more accessible to foreign countries and terrorist groups around the world.

In a recent Center for a New American Security report titled, “A World of Proliferated Drones: A Technology Primer,” author Kelley Sayler found that foreign nations and non-state actors were quickly developing and adopting the technology.

“We are living, increasingly, in a drone-saturated world,” the report said. “Unmanned aerial vehicles have proliferated rapidly around the globe in both military and civilian spheres.”

More than 90 nations and non-state groups currently operate drones, and many of them can carry weapons, the report said.

“Thirty countries either have or are developing armed drones, including some non-state actors that have either integrated explosives into the drone itself or have claimed … to put releasable bombs or missiles on drones,” said Paul Scharre, a senior fellow at CNAS. “Not all of these countries are major military powers — far from it, in fact.”

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IG Details Service Rivalry Over Predator Drones

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Rivalry between the Army and Air Force over Predator drones may have cost the Pentagon over $500 million in wasteful spending, according to a report released under the Freedom of Information Act.

The report, which the Pentagon’s Inspector General completed in 2010, is not available on the Defense Department’s public website, which instructs people to request it through the Freedom of Information Act. The Pentagon released a copy of the report to The Intercept this week, nearly five years after it was originally requested.

The report blasts both the Army and the Air Force for spending $115 million in 2008 and 2009 on research efforts that were supposed to help combine their Predator programs, in other words, to buy the same drone. Those efforts were “ineffective,” the report said, depriving the Pentagon of an estimated $400 million in savings that would have resulted.

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4th CAB conducting UAS training at Fort Carson, CO

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FORT CARSON, Colo. – Preventing the endangerment of Soldiers and targeting enemies is a military leader’s goal. Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) can help make that goal a reality.

UAS operators from 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, conducted unmanned aerial vehicle training at Camp Red Devil Training Area, July 23.

“We worked out of a ground station which allows two personnel to keep track of the UAS while it’s in flight,” said Staff Sgt. Joshua Johnson, UAS sergeant, Company A, 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, 4th CAB. “We work off of five different radios at a time and watch camera feeds from the UAS.”

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