Thursday, December 2, 2021

New Squadron forms at Yuma

RQ7 Shadow

From the Yuma Sun

With a wingspan of 14 feet, the U.S. Marine Corps’ new unmanned aerial vehicle can locate, recognize and identify targets from an altitude as high as 15,000 feet. And because of its small size, it produces little noise and has a very low radar signature.

Known as the RQ-7B Shadow, the unmanned aircraft can also recognize targets day and night from as far away as 67 miles from its ground control station. And it’s here in Yuma.

Lance Cpl. James Smith, an air vehicle operator, said the Shadow UAV-7B is geared toward saving lives by providing commanders with what he called an “eye into the unknown” on the battlefield.

“It gives us a heads up of what is ahead of us on the battlefield,” Smith said. “If we send this bird out three or four miles ahead of where our guys are, we can tell them from flying up ahead and looking down exactly what is out there.”

He noted, “Our lives are not at risk and there is no one in the aircraft. You are not in the aircraft flying by at 10,000 feet. You are on the ground, safe at the ground control station many miles away.”

Marine Corps Air Station Yuma was recently selected as the site for the Corps’ newest squadron, Marine Unmanned Aerial Squadron 4, or VMU-4, which became operational in June. When fully activated, the Yuma-based detachment will consist of four unmanned aerial vehicles and approximately 40 Marines.

According to Brigadier Gen. Rex C. McMillian, USMC Reserve and commander of the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, the squadron is the first of its type in the Marine Corps Reserve. While there are three other squadrons, he said, VMU-4 will be made up of both active duty and reserves.

The squadron received much of its equipment, including its aircraft, on June 25 and is still assigning Marines to it. McMillian said the goal is to be squadron-trained, fully operational and into the deployment rotation as soon as possible.

A ceremonial “first” flight for the squadron took place Wednesday morning as one of its four unmanned aerial vehicles was launched from Auxiliary Airfield 2 on the Barry M. Goldwater Range.

During the flight, the RQ-7B Shadow was flown to the nearby Yodaville target complex then returned about 20 minutes later to land back at the launch site. A camera mounted on the underside of the unmanned aircraft relayed images of the ground view over which the Shadow was flying to monitors back at the ground control station.

“It was a fantastic demonstration of this vehicle’s capabilities,” McMillian said. “It brings another tool that we can use to help out the Marine rifleman that is on the deck engaged in combat. Everything we do in the Marine Corps is to support that individual.”

Smith explained that the Marines who fly and control the unmanned vehicles aren’t called pilots. Instead, they are referred to as operators because they are trained to both fly the aircraft and operate its cameras.

Smith likened operating an unmanned aerial vehicle to playing a video game.

“It is a lot more complicated than that, but very similar,” Smith said. “You are controlling an aircraft that you aren’t really inside of, so that is what gives it the video game effect.”

The Shadow UAV-7B weighs 375 pounds and can fly for up to six hours nonstop on a single tank of gas. Smith said he takes pride in knowing that someday he will be saving lives.

James Gilbert can be reached at [email protected] or 539-6854.

With a wingspan of 14 feet, the U.S. Marine Corps’ new unmanned aerial vehicle can locate, recognize and identify targets from an altitude as high as 15,000 feet. And because of its small size, it produces little noise and has a very low radar signature.

Known as the RQ-7B Shadow, the unmanned aircraft can also recognize targets day and night from as far away as 67 miles from its ground control station. And it’s here in Yuma.

Lance Cpl. James Smith, an air vehicle operator, said the Shadow UAV-7B is geared toward saving lives by providing commanders with what he called an “eye into the unknown” on the battlefield.

“It gives us a heads up of what is ahead of us on the battlefield,” Smith said. “If we send this bird out three or four miles ahead of where our guys are, we can tell them from flying up ahead and looking down exactly what is out there.”
He noted, “Our lives are not at risk and there is no one in the aircraft. You are not in the aircraft flying by at 10,000 feet. You are on the ground, safe at the ground control station many miles away.”

Marine Corps Air Station Yuma was recently selected as the site for the Corps’ newest squadron, Marine Unmanned Aerial Squadron 4, or VMU-4, which became operational in June. When fully activated, the Yuma-based detachment will consist of four unmanned aerial vehicles and approximately 40 Marines.
According to Brigadier Gen. Rex C. McMillian, USMC Reserve and commander of the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, the squadron is the first of its type in the Marine Corps Reserve. While there are three other squadrons, he said, VMU-4 will be made up of both active duty and reserves.
The squadron received much of its equipment, including its aircraft, on June 25 and is still assigning Marines to it. McMillian said the goal is to be squadron-trained, fully operational and into the deployment rotation as soon as possible.
A ceremonial “first” flight for the squadron took place Wednesday morning as one of its four unmanned aerial vehicles was launched from Auxiliary Airfield 2 on the Barry M. Goldwater Range.

During the flight, the RQ-7B Shadow was flown to the nearby Yodaville target complex then returned about 20 minutes later to land back at the launch site. A camera mounted on the underside of the unmanned aircraft relayed images of the ground view over which the Shadow was flying to monitors back at the ground control station.
“It was a fantastic demonstration of this vehicle’s capabilities,” McMillian said. “It brings another tool that we can use to help out the Marine rifleman that is on the deck engaged in combat. Everything we do in the Marine Corps is to support that individual.”
Smith explained that the Marines who fly and control the unmanned vehicles aren’t called pilots. Instead, they are referred to as operators because they are trained to both fly the aircraft and operate its cameras.
Smith likened operating an unmanned aerial vehicle to playing a video game.
“It is a lot more complicated than that, but very similar,” Smith said. “You are controlling an aircraft that you aren’t really inside of, so that is what gives it the video game effect.”
The Shadow UAV-7B weighs 375 pounds and can fly for up to six hours nonstop on a single tank of gas. Smith said he takes pride in knowing that someday he will be saving lives.
James Gilbert can be reached at [email protected] or 539-6854.

Gary Mortimer
Founder and Editor of sUAS News | Gary Mortimer has been a commercial balloon pilot for 25 years and also flies full-size helicopters. Prior to that, he made tea and coffee in air traffic control towers across the UK as a member of the Royal Air Force.