On a narrow stretch of road fashioned into a runway at Forward Operating Base Pasab, Afghanistan, soldiers with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, Combined Task Force Dragoon, launch unmanned aircraft to safely maintain a view of the battlefield from the sky.
The soldiers run 24-hour-a-day operations out of the airfield, in order to keep situational awareness at all times in support of friendly forces who could be conducting missions anywhere in the area of operations.
The RQ7B Shadow Technical Unmanned Aircraft System allows the troops to maintain communications during operations and follows movements through video feed and infrared technology. The team provides intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance for the task force’s 1st, 3rd, and 4th Squadrons.
The Shadow system’s maintenance, technical inspections and maintenance quality control are the responsibilities of one person. This person is in charge of handling tasks including pushing the aircraft to the launcher and loading it, conducting pre-flight checks to ensure flight services are in order and aircraft components work correctly, pressurizing the launcher, launching and landing of the aircraft, conducting post-flight inspections to ensure the aircraft has sustained no damage while in flight, making sure the engine is in good working order and changing the fluids.
The Shadow aircraft is flown every hour, and all maintenance performed is logged into a data system that can be tracked in the future.
SFC Brock Niehaus, from Smithville, Mo., and platoon sergeant for the team, is responsible for handling administrative data for the platoon, flight schedules, ensuring shifts run properly and acts as a liaison between the platoon and civilians working with them. He assists in the maintenance and launching of the aircraft and implements safety standards.
Through the use of the aircraft, the team provides support to soldiers on the ground with a number of resources that continuously give U.S. and coalition forces the edge on today’s modern battlefield.
“We provide [intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance] coverage for convoys, route surveillance, [points of interest] reconnaissance; provide over-watch for the engineers during route clearance and general surveillance of the area,” said Niehaus. “[The platoon] is consistently performing at a very high standard.”