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Route clearance in Iraq goes high-tech

Dec 15, 2010

By 2nd Lt. Matthew Fumagalli

BASRA PROVINCE, Iraq -- Thanks to improving technology, the Soldiers of 1st Platoon, Company E, 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Advise and Assist Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, have made improvements in route clearance in Basra, Iraq.

The Soldiers in 1st Platoon are taking advantage of relatively new technology, such as the RQ-16A Tarantula Hawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.

The T-Hawk has the ability to launch remotely from the back of a truck, with Soldiers only having to dismount from their vehicle for a few minutes. The T-Hawk gives the platoon the ability to observe surrounding areas and parallel routes, and provides a bird's-eye-view of the convoy while it's on the move.

"The T-Hawk is very easy to fly and is extremely stable in the air," said Spc. Nicholas Boxley, combat engineer and T-Hawk pilot.

Unlike some other models of UAVs, the T-Hawk can take off and land vertically, which makes it useful in areas with obstructions like buildings or mountains where other UAVs cannot operate. The ability to land vertically also allows the operators to land the T-Hawk within 15 feet of their location, limiting their exposure while on patrol.

When using the T-Hawk, the platoon is able to see a greater distance in any direction than before. This is a tremendous capability in the marshlands of Basra province.

During the rainy months of winter, many areas will become impassible to military vehicles. The T-Hawk's ability to fly in nearly any weather will help ensure these areas remain free from insurgent activity.

Although the T-Hawk is relatively new, the engineers of Company E have learned how to put it to good use during their patrols. The T-Hawk allows them to sit far enough away that they can observe the area without being seen.

The buzzing in the sky also serves as a reminder that Company E is always watching.

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