By Spc. Leon CookApril 9, 2014
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Washington - Once upon a morning dreary...
Raven operators from 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division refreshed their skills at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., March 27.
The Raven is a hand-launched unmanned aerial vehicle not much larger than a remotely controlled model airplane. While it lacks the speed and maximum altitude of its larger cousins, it offers company commanders the versatility of having a UAV deployable whenever they need a view from the sky.
"What we're doing out here is what we call a monthly fly-in," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Paul Beiss, the 3-2 SBCT unmanned aerial systems operations officer.
The monthly fly-in allows Raven operators a chance to stay current in their skills and meet their mandatory flight hours, Beiss added.
The Raven is normally operated by a team of two. The operator is Raven-qualified and controls the aircraft. The assistant helps put the aircraft together, launches the Raven, and helps the operator maintain constant control of the aircraft.
The raven, from the famous poem of the same name, could talk. This Raven, while incapable of speech, can communicate a great deal of information to its operator and to a company commander.
"The Raven is an excellent tool for commanders in infantry units to use for scouting out ahead of their formations so that they can provide a better situational picture to what they're going into," Beiss said.
"In Afghanistan, we used them for multiple things," said Sgt. Anthony James, 3-2 SBCT's Raven master trainer. "It's used for route recon, route protection, anything of that nature."
James was able to recall a specific incident in Afghanistan where he used a Raven to great effect. When a dismounted patrol was fired upon from a local village, the commander on the ground ordered him to launch the Raven. When the Raven was in the air, James gathered valuable intelligence on the village and the insurgents including their positions.
Since the AH-64 Apache helicopters supporting the patrol couldn't see the insurgents but the Raven could, James assisted the Apaches by providing detailed targeting data.
"Flying at about 20 to 50 meters off the ground, I would pinpoint where the insurgents were," James said.
Once the Apaches had fired on the insurgents and left the area, James used his Raven to assess the battle damage from the air.
James said the Raven is small and very difficult to target with small arms, which allowed him to fly the aircraft at low altitude over enemy positions with near impunity, a great advantage for the commander on the ground.
"The fly-in program that was established by 3-2 is an excellent resource to ensure that operators who may not have the initiative to go do the flying themselves get out here and stay familiar with the system because it is a perishable skill. If you don't use it frequently you will lose it," Beiss said. "Part of training these guys is the potential to keep upwards of 4,000 soldiers in this brigade safe."