USA — Big Red One Soldiers take center stage during Apache, Gray Eagle tests

FORT IRWIN, Calif. — Two avi­a­tion plat­forms that have the poten­tial to rev­o­lu­tion­ize the way the Army will address future glob­al threats are fly­ing high above the deserts of Cal­i­for­nia this month thanks to the skills of more than 100 1st Infantry Divi­sion Sol­diers.

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A crew­chief pre­pares to launch a Apache Block III heli­copter dur­ing a recent train­ing mis­sion at the Nation­al Train­ing Cen­ter at Fort Irwin, Calif.
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A Gray Eagle Unmanned Aer­i­al Sys­tem sits on the run­way at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Sol­diers from F Com­pa­ny, 1st Attack Recon­nais­sance Bat­tal­ion, 1st Avi­a­tion Reg­i­ment, Com­bat Avi­a­tion Brigade, 1st Infantry Divi­sion, will begin the UAS’s Ini­tial Oper­a­tions Test­ing and Exper­i­men­ta­tion lat­er this year.
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Pilots and crew chiefs pre­pare for a recent day of train­ing and test­ing on the Apache Block III. More than 100 Sol­diers from 1–1 ARB are call­ing Cal­i­for­nia home for the next sev­er­al weeks as they assist with the new aircraft’s Ini­tial Oper­a­tions Test­ing and Exper­i­men­ta­tion.
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A crew chief pre­pares to launch a Apache Block III heli­copter dur­ing a recent train­ing mis­sion in Cal­i­for­nia.
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Pilots and ground Sol­diers from C Com­pa­ny, 1st Attack Recon­nais­sance Bat­tal­ion, 1st Avi­a­tion Reg­i­ment, Com­bat Avi­a­tion Brigade, 1st Infantry Divi­sion, are putting the capa­bil­i­ties of the new Apache Block III heli­copter to the test in the skies above the Nation­al Train­ing Cen­ter at Fort Irwin, as part of the aircraft’s Ini­tial Oper­a­tions Test­ing and Exper­i­men­ta­tion.

Mean­while, Sol­diers from the battalion’s F Com­pa­ny are busy train­ing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., to do the same sort of test­ing on the Gray Eagle Unmanned Aer­i­al Sys­tem lat­er this year.

“Our bat­tal­ion is the only bat­tal­ion in the Army going through this process for two Major Defense Acqui­si­tion Pro­grams,” said Lt. Col. Ed Ved­der, com­man­der of 1–1 ARB. “The ‘Gun­fight­er’ team is doing the fly­ing the entire time.”

Ved­der said that, in light of today’s increas­ing­ly fis­cal­ly restrained envi­ron­ment, Defense Depart­ment offi­cials want to ensure they are get­ting exact­ly what they want from these two expen­sive sys­tems and are count­ing on the Sol­diers of the Big Red One to pro­vide them the data they need to move for­ward in the acqui­si­tion process.

“The goals of these tests are to ensure that the air­craft meet all of the key per­for­mance para­me­ters and capa­bil­i­ty require­ments that the Army deter­mined for the pro­gram,” Ved­der explained. “Once the tests are com­plete, the results will be briefed to Army lead­er­ship and Depart­ment of Defense acqui­si­tion exec­u­tives who will deter­mine whether to go for­ward with a full-rate pro­duc­tion build for the (sys­tems).”

CW4 Ronald Porter, the Gunfighter’s senior war­rant offi­cer, said he and his fel­low pilots will be fly­ing a vari­ety of mis­sions dur­ing the test­ing of the Block III and aver­age about 12 flight hours per week for the dura­tion of the test.

“From deep attack and close com­bat attacks to uncon­ven­tion­al mis­sion sets, the test­ing is forc­ing us to find new ways to uti­lize the increased capa­bil­i­ties of the Block III,” he said.

Porter said that ini­tial test­ing has revealed to the Block III pilots an air­craft that is able to get to the fight quick­er with more pay­load and pro­vides the warfight­er with bet­ter sit­u­a­tion­al aware­ness.

“This is what every gun pilot has need­ed for years to increase the sup­port to our ground brethren and win our nation’s wars,” he said.

Capt. Adam Marr, com­man­der of C Com­pa­ny, 1–1 ARB, said his team is hon­ored to be a part of the test­ing of the Block IIIs.

“What Char­lie Com­pa­ny is part of, what the Gun­fight­ers are part of, is val­i­dat­ing this awe­some new air­craft to not only fight the cur­rent war but to ensure that we are pre­pared to meet all future bat­tle­field chal­lenges,” he said.

Apache Block III test­ing will con­tin­ue through mid-April and Gray Eagle UAS test­ing will com­mence lat­er this year and con­tin­ue into the fall.

Source:
U.S. Army

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