1st ID Combat Aviation Brigade to welcome new unit, new capability

FORT RILEY, Kan. — The Com­bat Avi­a­tion Brigade, 1st Infantry Divi­sion is plan­ning on adding a new com­bat strength to their capa­bil­i­ties in March with the addi­tion of an unmanned aer­i­al sys­tem com­pa­ny.

A Gray Eagle unmanned air­craft makes its way down an air­field on Camp Taji, Iraq, before a sur­veil­lance mis­sion in the Bagh­dad area
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Sol­diers from F Com­pa­ny, Com­bat Avi­a­tion Brigade, 1st Infantry Divi­sion under­go train­ing on the Gray Eagle Unmanned Aer­i­al Sys­tem on Fort Riley, Kan. F Co. will offi­cial­ly become a CAB unit in March.
Click to enlarge

F Com­pa­ny, CAB, will con­tribute to the brigade’s mis­sion by fly­ing the Gray Eagle Unmanned Aer­i­al Sys­tem, or UAS. Although Fenix com­pa­ny is already oper­a­tional­ly part of the CAB, their offi­cial stand up occurs this spring.

Fenix Com­pa­ny will pro­vide the CAB with long reach­ing unmanned sup­port through the abil­i­ties of the Gray Eagle. Some of its key fea­tures are the abil­i­ty to stay air­borne longer than oth­er manned and unmanned plat­forms, the abil­i­ty to inte­grate with CAB attack heli­copters, and the abil­i­ty to engage tar­gets on the ground.

“It’s a mul­ti­ple asset that the com­man­der can use for many dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions,” said Chief War­rant Offi­cer 3 Jef­frey Stokes, the F Co. com­man­der.

Stokes has seen both the strengths and chal­lenges that the F Co. team has faced dur­ing the process of build­ing F Co. Chal­lenges such as find­ing suf­fi­cient air space for train­ing and adapt­ing to soft­ware updates to the Gray Eagle plat­form have kept the Sol­diers of F Co. in a con­stant state of learn­ing and train­ing.

Despite the chal­lenges, the Sol­diers of Fenix Com­pa­ny know that they pro­vide advan­tages to troops on the bat­tle­field.

“The biggest thing I think we bring is the fact that we can stay in the air for a long time,” Stokes said.

Accord­ing to oper­a­tors in F Co, the Gray Eagle can pro­vide near­ly 24 hours of cov­er­age while in a recon­nais­sance con­fig­u­ra­tion. This abil­i­ty almost quadru­ples the flight time of the Shad­ow, a sim­i­lar UAS.

In addi­tion to the recon­nais­sance con­fig­u­ra­tion, the Gray Eagle can be con­fig­ured to become an asset to air­craft over the bat­tle­field.

Stokes said that Gray Eagle oper­a­tors have learned how to inter­act with air­craft pilots from all branch­es of the mil­i­tary in order to pro­vide sup­port. For the CAB, these inter­ac­tions can pro­vide heli­copter pilots with addi­tion­al options.

“There’s a lot of dif­fer­ent ways that we can team up with their attack heli­copters,” said Sgt. Richard Kin­ney, an F Co. UAS oper­a­tor.

Apache pilots not only have the abil­i­ty to com­mu­ni­cate vocal­ly with oper­a­tors, but they can also see through the pay­load that the Gray Eagle is car­ry­ing. And with the intro­duc­tion of the Apache Block III air­craft, sched­uled to reach the CAB in March, pilots can actu­al­ly take con­trol of the pay­load, Kin­ney said.

“We can have a much larg­er impact on the bat­tle­field,” said Spc. David Walsh, an F Co. UAS oper­a­tor.

Ulti­mate­ly, Gray Eagle oper­a­tors will have the capa­bil­i­ty to acquire and engage tar­gets on their own, accord­ing to the needs of the ground troops or the ground com­man­der.

The F Co. “FENIX” Gray Eagle oper­a­tors will become an asset to the CAB, the divi­sion, and to any task force they sup­port, as the Sol­diers and lead­ers of each ele­ment learn how to work togeth­er to accom­plish their mis­sions.

U.S. Army

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