Warplanes: Shadows Over Australia


July 21, 2011: Last year, Australia bought two American RQ-7B Shadow 200 UAV units (each containing four UAVs and ground control and support gear). The U.S. delivered the Australian Shadow 200s 18 months early because the U.S. Army gave up some of its production. With all the U.S. troops out of Iraq, there was less demand for Shadows by American units. Australia bought the Shadow 200s for use by their troops in Afghanistan. Before the end of the year, one of the Shadow 200 units (with perhaps six of the eight available UAVs) will arrive in Afghanistan.

Shadow 200 is most widely used by the U.S. Army, where each Shadow 200 UAV platoon has 22 troops and operates four UAVs, plus the ground control equipment. Typically, each combat brigade has one Shadow UAV platoon. The U.S. Marine Corps and several other nations are also users.

Each 159 kg (350 pound) Shadow 200 UAV costs $500,000, and can stay in the air 5.5 hours per sortie. A day camera and night vision camera is carried on each aircraft. Able to fly as high as 4,900 meters (15,000 feet), the Shadow can thus go into hostile territory and stay high enough (over 3,200 meters (10,000 feet) to be safe from hostile rifle and machine-gun fire. The Shadow UAVs can carry 25.5 kg (56 pounds) of equipment, is 3.5 meters/11 feet long and has a wingspan of 4.1 meters/12.75 feet. The Shadow has a range of about 50 kilometers. The army has had great success with the Shadow 200, which is what caught the attention of Australia.

While the U.S. Army RQ-7a are going to be replaced in the next few years, there is still an enormous demand for UAVs just now. Foreign demand for Shadow 200 is keeping the aircraft in production. Last year, the army began receiving a Predator class replacement for the Shadow 200, the 1.4 ton MQ-1C.


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