It’s a bird, it’s a plane…it’s a Raven:
3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division Public Affairs Office
The Raven unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) puts aerial reconnaissance capabilities into the hands of platoon leaders and company commanders. Once limited to brigade and higher level commanders, the hand-launched aircraft is one of the latest additions of tools to enhance the war fighting capabilities of Paratroopers on the ground.
Paratroopers assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne got a hands on perspective on the unique vehicle during a 10-day Raven course that occurs from April 22 and ends on May 2 at the 3rd Brigade Combat Team headquarters. The course is usually an amalgamation of combat and non-combat Paratroopers who have never even touched a UAV.
Paratroopers in the course learned to assemble and inspect the aircraft, launch the aircraft and operate the remote control to manage the plane’s movements and cameras. The crash-course is designed to give a Paratrooper of any job or skill a basic idea of how to operate the Raven instead of relying on a UAV specialist.
At just over 4 pounds and having a span of five feet, this small aircraft gives its operator a full-range battlefield perspective. The Raven is equipped with three cameras; an electrical optical camera and two infrared cameras. This provides an aerial observation of 10 to 15 kilometers at altitudes up to 1,000 feet.
“When we first went over to support Operation Iraqi Freedom, we had Raven capabilities,” said indirect fire infantryman Spc. Gregory J. Chandler, Company A, 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. “What we (infantry units) didn’t have was anybody to train us on it.”
Although this tool of war is not meant to be treated like a video game, instructors of the course explained that gamers are the individuals who get a quick concept of the Raven and its means.
“It’s the game people-the guys who love Play Station 3 and computer games, who really have a good understanding of the Raven,” said Chief UAV flight instructor Mike Plonski. “It’s like a gigantic video game for adults, but with real consequences in the bigger picture,” said Plonski.
By the fifth day, most of the trainees will have a pretty solid concept of the complicated aircraft, said Plonski, a retired Marine who has first-handedly seen the progression of UAVs in the last twenty years. The hardest part of the training is launching the aircraft.
Before launching the aircraft, Paratroopers have to practice with baseball bats. This exercise gives each person a feel of how the Raven should be launch in order to be mission capable.
“If you can’t launch it, there’s no mission,” said Plonski. “So the Paratroopers launch baseball bats, which have the bottom-heavy feel of the Raven, until they are able to throw straight and far. After a sturdy launch, the aircraft takes over and pulls itself up to altitude,” said Plonski.
With the Raven, Paratroopers are able to respond to accurate intelligence rather than an attack, said Plonski. It provides a multi-dimensional eye on the enemy, much further than what a Paratrooper views directly in front of him; ultimately sparing lives, said Plonski.
By Sgt. Amanda Jackson