Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Saturday "toy"


The ballet of war? The picture shows US Army Sgt Dane Phelps launching a Raven small unmanned aerial vehicle during a joint US and Iraqi cordon and search operation in the Patika province of Iraq on 16 November 2006.

But, if anyone is under the impression that this "toy" really is a toy, the price tag of $25,000 for each of these UAVs, which weigh in at 5lb, should disabuse you.

So effective is this little machine – producing real-time video of the type illustrated here - that the US Department of Defense is buying another $53 million-worth, adding 2,000 to the 1,300 already in service, with the Marine Corps taking some on charge.

The Ravens are operated in threes, together with ground-control equipment, usually used by an infantry company commander. This means that each infantry battalion will have at least nine such UAVs available.

This is a significant reconnaissance force for infantry units that, a decade ago, were dependent on separate army aviation battalions, or the air force, for air reconnaissance. Now front line infantry commanders have their own air force, under their own control, another of the front line revolutions which is gradually changing the face of warfare.

This is an official DoD photograph taken by Sgt 1st Class Michael Guillory.

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