The Army's unmanned aircraft system flight reached 1,000,000 hours this past month which marks a milestone showing just how far the importance of UAS has grown since the United States entered Iraq and Afghanistan. The program grew from a handful of systems in 2001 to roughly 1,000 aircraft in 2010.

At the beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army possessed only a handful of Shadows and Hunters, according to the May 12 edition of Space Daily.

However, once the value of UASs was recognized, more eyes were added to the fighting in the Middle East through electronic UAS use during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom without putting humans at risk, the UAS program began to escalate at a staggering rate. Currently, approximately 25,000 UAS flight hours are logged monthly in support of OIF and OEF.

"Unmanned Aircraft Systems serve as unique tools for the commander, which broadens battlefield situational awareness and the ability to see, target and destroy the enemy by providing actionable intelligence and persistent surveillance to the lowest tactical levels. Army UAS are the 'Eyes of the Army,'" said Lt. Col. Patrick Sullivan, commander, Unmanned Aircraft Systems Training Battalion.

The Army envisions universal operators capable of controlling all Army UAS platforms, to include multiple platforms simultaneously, from a common ground control station sustained by universal UAS maintainers. Actionable combat information is disseminated in real-time, vertically and horizontally, across multiple tactical echelons via a robust network as well as a common remote video transceiver that doubles as an unmanned aircraft controller to allow Soldiers direct control of UAS mission payloads, he explained.

UASTB is the Army's only training center for UAS operators and maintainers operating the Shadow, Hunter, Warrior A and Gray Eagle (ERMP). UASTB also trains the 150U Warrant Operations technician.

UASTB supports the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Roadmap that outlines how the U.S. Army will develop, organize and employ UASs from 2010 to 2035 across the full spectrum of military operations. The battalion now operates the largest UAS training center in the world, with over 125,000 square feet of training space, four hangars, two runways as well as operations at Libby Army Airfield, and 24-hour operational capacity, training approximately 2,000 students annually.