Gunston Hall Tests New Asset, Scan Eagle UAV during CERTEX
Navy News Service
Story Number: NNS120217-12
By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Lauren G. Randall, Amphibious Squadron 8 Public Affairs
USS GUNSTON HALL, At Sea (NNS) -- Amphibious dock-landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) conducted, for the first time aboard, testing of Scan Eagle, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), used in coordination with both Gunston Hall and the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) Feb. 1-14.
Scan Eagle is an Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) asset and the decision to deploy it on Gunston Hall was made shortly after the ship was assigned to the Iwo Jima ARG this past summer. Scan Eagle has been deployed on other LSDs on the West Coast. Installation plans only required minor changes onboard Gunston Hall. Insitu and Boeing contractors installed the system in concert with Gunston Hall's own consolidated maintenance availabilities, completed just before the group departed Norfolk, Va., for the 24th MEU and Iwo Jima ARG's final certification for deployment, certification exercise (CERTEX) and Bold Alligator 2012.
"This training time is the first opportunity since being installed to test the system," said Cmdr. Shawn A. Bohrer, executive officer aboard Gunston Hall. "Additionally, CERTEX and Bold Alligator 2012 are dynamic training events in which the ARG and ships react to differing presentations/vignettes just as they would real life scenarios. Employing Scan Eagle gives the ARG/MEU commanders a tremendous asset in developing the recognized maritime picture to support decision making."
Scan Eagle has already conducted two successful missions and located simulated surface contacts with positive visual identification during the training exercises. Scan Eagle is being used in the scenario to locate any simulated illegal activities during the training exercises such as drug or human trafficking, terrorist activities, or unknown crafts and vehicles within close proximity of the ARG at sea or the Marines on land, with video footage transmitted back to the control system on the ship using a live video feed.
"Scan Eagle is really going to expand the horizon of Gunston Hall, Iwo Jima (Amphibious Ready Group) ARG and 24th MEU," said Capt. John Meier, commanding officer aboard Gunston Hall. "It is state-of-the-art technology and is able to greatly enhance the ship's air capabilities with small equipment providing video information possibilities that the ARG has never had before."
The UAV captures live video footage as it flies up to 78 mph and up to 10,000 feet in altitude for more than 20 hours during a single flight. Scan Eagle has been deployed frequently over the past several years in support of maritime security and overseas contingency operations. It can be deployed ashore or onboard Navy ships such as amphibious dock-landing ships and destroyers.
"Having Scan Eagle aboard Gunston Hall enables the Iwo Jima ARG to have an additional intelligence collection asset which can be used over both land and sea," said Lt. Jabe Lopez, Scan Eagle's detachment officer in charge with Amphibious Squadron 8 (PHIBRON 8). "This is definitely a great blue-green data collection asset to have."
Insitu and Boeing contractors worked with Navy and Marine units during Bold Alligator 2012 and CERTEX to build a working relationship to fully integrate the Scan Eagle program aboard Gunston Hall. This UAV system is unique because it only requires four personnel to operate; the pilot, two air crewmen for lift-off and landing, and an information analyst to relay the data collected. The Scan Eagle aids in getting real-time, full mission video, from a stealthy package with an extremely long on-station time.
"It is really a robust capability ideally suited for remote locations," said Meier. "With the distance Scan Eagle can cover, it doesn't put our air crew in harms way. The ability to get vital information with live video coverage, without endangering our Sailors, will greatly enhance the Navy's mission."
Gunston Hall is underway participating in Bold Alligator 2012 as well as CERTEX, the final certification for the 24th MEU and Iwo Jima ARG before their scheduled spring deployment.
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