CAMP COOKE, Iraq, Aug. 25, 2004 � You can�t see it. You can�t hear it, but it�s there. And it�s watching.
The Shadow 200 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, operated and maintained by a slice element of the 312th Military Intelligence Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division, has become as important to successful combat operations in Iraq as tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles and .50 Caliber machine guns.
The information collected from the Shadow�s �bird�s eye view� has proven invaluable in countering actions by Anti-Iraqi Forces. During one particular surveillance mission, the vehicle collected data on a group of insurgents who had been mortaring a logistics base. It then relayed the information to a Kiowa crew who located the vehicle, followed it to a safe distance away from the local populace and destroyed the vehicle.
Within the hour, ground combat forces went in to the area where the vehicle had been destroyed and began a cordon and search operation, attempting to locate any more insurgents that might have been hiding in the area.
�The [unmanned aerial vehicle] has been fantastically helpful overall,� said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Scott Sherman, Kiowa pilot, 1st Squadron, 7th Aviation Regiment. �They are able to loiter in one area longer than aircraft can and they have good day and night sight and can see exactly what people are doing. They caught these guys launching mortars at a [Forward Operating Base]. They fly so high you can�t see or hear them.�
Primarily used for surveillance missions in and around Baghdad, the Shadow 200 has a wingspan of about 13 feet and an overall weight of 350 pounds. It can fly as high as 14,000 feet at 70 knots for as long as four hours at a time. With nearly 2,000 flight hours racked up so far, the vehicles and their pilots have proven themselves as indispensable to the mission�s success.
�Every mission we fly, we have some specific requirements,� said Cpl. Frank Petersen, a standardization and instructor pilot with the unmanned aerial vehicle platoon. �If we don�t know what they are looking for, what good is the reconnaissance? We will have the area they want us to fly in and the target description from our mission brief. We stay in constant contact with the unit or brigade that we are flying in support of, so when we see something that looks like their target, we give them the description and the grid. At that point, they will either send in their [quick reaction force], or air support.�