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More unmanned aircraft striving to eliminate IEDs

Oct 7, 2009

By Erika Wonn

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 7, 2009) -- The Army trained more than 1,400 Soldiers, Marines and civilians to fly unmanned aircraft systems in 2009, and expects to train more than 2,300 in 2010.

A group of aviators at the Association of the United States Army's annual meeting Tuesday discussed the use of unmanned aircraft systems for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Soldiers in Task Force ODIN use various UAS -- including the Extended Reach Multi-Purpose, Shadow and Raven systems - to identify and eliminate improvised explosive devices.

Task Force ODIN is an acronym for Observe, Detect, Identify, and Neutralize and it began in 2007 as the Army's lead anti-IED unit.

Using unmanned systems in conjunction with manned aircraft, the task force locates and destroys IEDs and other targets of interest within Iraq and Afghanistan. With its use of electro-optical/infrared sensors and synthetic aperture radar payloads, the unit also identifies security risks for ground troops, allowing them to react accordingly. Unmanned systems used by Task force ODIN in Iraq also carry both laser-range-finder designators and laser target-markers.

In overseas contingencies, the Army has flown more than 760,000 combat flight hours using UAS. Unmanned systems like the Raven and Shadow are proving themselves in deployed locations and have been embraced by the war fighters who employ them.

Sgt. 1st Class Phillip Scibelli, a Shadow standardization instructor-operator at the Army's schoolhouse, has been deployed in conjunction with Task Force ODIN. He stands by the capabilities of the UAS.

"There was an incident in OIF when we were still getting used to the manned/unmanned teaming and we were in a winchester situation, meaning we had nothing left," the UAS instructor said. "We zeroed in on the target, and an Apache was able to fire on the target off of our laser. That's pretty huge in the battle."

The Army has depended on the unmanned and manned collaboration of aircraft and aviators in the global war on terror, and will continue to do so in the future, said Col. Robert Sova, commander of the Army UAS Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker, Ala. He reminded the crowd at the meeting that it is important to remember the boundaries when talking about the future.

"There will always be a Soldier, whether in the loop or on the loop that will have snatch- back capabilities," the UAS Center of Excellence commander said. "Because the Soldiers are making the decisions. Let there be no doubt."

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