Monday, August 18, 2008

Latest UAV spreads its wings in southern Afghanistan

Latest UAV spreads its wings in southern Afghanistan

An Equipment and Logistics news article
18 Aug 08
UK troops are using a new tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) to patrol the skies of the Upper Sangin Valley in southern Afghanistan, helping to identify enemy threats and protect soldiers as they go about their work.

Launched and operated by gunners from 1 Battery, 47 Regiment Royal Artillery, the Desert Hawk III is one of many assets that are employed to help seek out enemy fighters and one of the newest UAVs that the Royal Artillery use. The UAV provides an over-watch capability for soldiers patrolling from Forward Operating Base (FOB) Inkerman near Sangin.

Traditionally 32 Regt RA were the only regiment in the Army that operated these unmanned aircraft, but to ease the operational commitment, 47 Regt have been tasked with flying the new equipment. Lance Bombardier Ricky Talbot explained:

"It is a mini UAV; it provides reconnaissance for the FOB and over looks patrols. If the FOB wants us to check any vulnerable points or firing points we can easily check them with the Desert Hawk."

The Desert Hawk can be launched by just throwing it into the wind, but the gunners have learnt that for the best take off it is best to gain speed before launching and so they launch it from the back of a quad bike. The UAV flies itself by inputting a route onto a digital map and a GPS within the aircraft follows that route. An operator can also fly the UAV using a simple games console hand controller.

At the end of a flight, the reconnaissance vehicle lands itself and, when it hits the ground, intentionally breaks into nine parts to minimise the stress on the aircraft. Different payloads can be bolted onto the UAV which gives the user alternative cameras and views to look at. The footage can be viewed live on the screen of a conventional laptop and also recorded to allow playback to commanders.

British Paratroopers from B Company 2 Para, who are operating in the Upper Sangin Valley, patrol the local area. Patrolling is intense and dangerous with an 80 per cent chance of the patrols coming under attack from enemy forces which can be as close as 30m away. The Operating Base and its men play a vital role in stopping Taliban fighters moving up and down the Sangin Valley.

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