By Sgt. Stephanie van GeeteJanuary 22, 2009
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq - Elements of all six battalions of the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade came together yesterday morning to recover an unmanned aerial vehicle that made an emergency landing near Baji, north of Tikrit.
At approximately 8:35 a.m., Brigade battle staff got word from their UAV personnel that a Hunter aircraft was indicating in-flight engine failure. The ground pilots attempted to fly the vehicle back to the airfield at COB Speicher, but it continued to lose altitude. By 9:13, the aircraft was on the ground, and a downed aircraft recovery team was being assembled and dispatched.
"Due to the skill of the Unmanned Aerial System operator and the UAS' recovery system, we were fairly certain that the UAS would suffer relatively little damage during the emergency landing," said Col. Erik Peterson, 10th CAB commander. "The quicker we recovered it, the quicker we could figure out what went wrong, fix it, and get it back into operation. Not to mention, the Hunter is a relatively expensive, sophisticated piece of equipment, which we prefer not to leave unsecured in the Iraqi countryside."
Two OH-58D Kiowa Warrior Scout Weapons Teams from 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, were the first at the scene, arriving within minutes to provide aerial security and joined shortly afterward by a Task Force ODIN Warrior UAS.
First on the ground were the Pathfinders of Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, who quickly set up a security perimeter to guard the aircraft until it could be recovered.
The Pathfinders were joined by the quick reaction force platoon from 2-27th Infantry Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, while AH-64 Apaches from 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 10th CAB arrived to relieve the Scout Weapons Teams. A downed aircraft recovery team from Bravo Company, 277th Aviation Support Battalion was dispatched to recover the Hunter.
Once on the ground, the DART team worked quickly to disassemble the aircraft, removing the wings and tail from the fuselage so it could be loaded into a CH-47 Chinook from 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, 10th CAB, for transport back to COB Speicher.
Although he commands a brigade well-known for its aerial assets, Peterson lauded his ground troops for their efforts in the operation.
"Our Pathfinders played a vital role in the mission; they were on the scene very quickly, providing security, accurate assessments of the situation and a vital communication link with responding aircraft and command-and-control elements," Peterson said. "Without our dedicated Pathfinder team, this would have been a much more difficult problem.
"Our downed aircraft recovery team also did a fantastic job," he continued. "Although they had training and orientation on various aircraft, they had never actually disassembled this type of UAS before. They not only disassembled the relatively undamaged Hunter in an austere environment in a very brief time, but they also packaged the components for exfil aboard a CH-47 Chinook without incurring further damage."
The operation was a success, once again proving the capabilities of the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade.
"We train and fight as task forces, exploiting and optimizing the strengths and capabilities of our various units and airframes," Peterson explained. "In this particular case, we were faced with a problem that required contribution from virtually every element of Task Force Falcon, and everyone performed magnificently. The whole operation was synchronized and executed by exceptionally sharp young Soldiers, NCOs and officers cross-talking, innovating, and problem solving.
"Overall, the operation was a great example of the agility and teamwork of our staff and junior leaders."