Friday, April 18, 2008

VMU-1’s first deployment with Shadow successful

Staff Sgt. Bobbie Bryant

AL-TAQADDUM, Iraq (April 16, 2008) Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1 ended a historical seven-month deployment at Camp Al-Taqaddum, Iraq and is heading home to Twentynine Palms, Calif.

This deployment was the first time the Shadow unmanned aerial vehicle was tested in a combat environment, replacing the older Pioneer UAV.

“The Shadow’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance services help reduce the utilization rates of fixed and rotary wing aircraft supporting the ISR mission, thus reducing the cost to the Marine Corps,” said Lt. Col. Geoffrey H. Field, commanding officer of VMU-1.

Both the Shadow and Pioneer have similar capabilities, however the most noteworthy difference saved the unit on man-hours and replacement parts.

The Marines of VMU-1 cite that the Shadow needs less maintenance to operate than the Pioneer does. On average it is about two man-hours for one hour of flight for Shadow as compared to more than three man-hours for one flight-hour of Pioneer.

“We refuel it, go over all the surfaces and oil it. Everything is usually in good working order. We wipe everything down after every flight to assist in corrosion prevention and to keep the dust off,” said Lance Cpl. Drew M. Hurst, a UAV mechanic from St. Augustine, Fla. “We used to replace propellers all the time on the Pioneer but not so much with Shadow.”

The Shadow’s technological advances and reduced maintenance requirements give the Marines of VMU-1 confidence in the platform and its future.

“I felt that it would be much easier to maintain and operate and it exceeded my expectations,” said Field. “The technology will keep growing, providing better communications capability, better payloads, and hopefully one day the Shadow will have an onboard weapons system.”

Since the unit deployed in September 2007, the Shadow flew in over 480 sorties with more than 2,500 flight hours with zero mishaps.

“All the Marines with VMU-1 have done a great job in ensuring our missions were a success,” Wheeler said. “Our unit has deployed every year since this war has started. Some of our Marines are going on their fourth and fifth tours. We are proud of each and every one of them.”

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