U.S., Moroccan, German servicemembers conduct UAV familiarization for African Lion 13

By Sgt. Tatum Vayavananda | Marine Corps Forces Africa
AGADIR, Morocco —

U.S. Marines, along with German and Moroccan counterparts, conducted a small unmanned-flying vehicle familiarization course for Exercise African Lion 13, in Agadir, Morocco, that shared the capabilities of the RQ-11B Raven as part of the Intelligence Capacity Building Workshop, April 13.

The RQ-11B Raven, or “Raven-B,” is the Marine Corps’ lightweight, hand-launched Unmanned Air Vehicle that provides reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition used in contingency operations around the world.

“The Moroccan and German soldiers went through a quick brief on Small Unmanned Aerial Systems and a flight simulator to get more familiarization with the aircraft,” said Sgt. Clayton J. LaGesse, an intelligence specialist from 2nd Battalion, 14thMarine Regiment supporting AL-13.

The UAV is classified as a Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle that can operate at a maximum service “ceiling” of more than 10,000 feet.

“After that, we went out into the field and I conducted a flight demonstration,” said LaGesse, a Menomomee Falls, WI native. “It’s a one-man wrecking crew because you can indicate targets and keep troops safe on the ground with just one person if you needed to.”

An important aspect of the Raven-B is that it provides small units with situational awareness and can be employed in all environments for direct or general reconnaissance as well as offensive and defensive force-protection operations.

“The Raven-B is an excellent asset to Marines on the ground; it can be launched from a moving vehicle to recon the road ahead, identify dangers and survey the perimeter of the convoy,” added LaGesse.

The small price of the system is a force multiplier that provides immense advantage in real-world operations. The Raven-B is constructed of thin, water-resistant Kevlar material and weighs less than a loaded M4 service carbine with magazines, at only four pounds,. Coupled with the flight system, it weighs less than an M249 Squad-Automatic Weapon with a combat load of ammunition.

The Raven-B has the capability to be equipped with three different cameras, or “payloads”; one aiming forward, and one for each side of the nose cone. The cameras can record video footage with a live-stream back to the ground-control station and can capture still photographs, regardless of the time of day with the addition of an Infra-Red camera capability for night-time surveillance.

“We were shown the basics [of the Raven-B] and it makes sense that you would have that capability,” said German Maj. Timon Hoppe, the officer-in-charge of the German geospatial intelligence cell participating in African Lion 13.

The U.S. Marines, sailors, and soldiers, along with German and Moroccan counterparts, saw the Raven-B in action as it flew a 2km flight path demonstrating its capability to survey the surrounding area. Members of the class were able to watch the live-video feed as the Raven-B flew through the training area and around the observers.

“We were shown how [the Raven-B]is set up, maintained, and how it’s operated and it was interesting to see and very impressive because we have UAVs like that, but it was the first time I saw it live,” said Hoppe, a Husum, Germany, native.

The ICBW training helped U.S., Moroccan and German officers share procedures to build a broad, varied and enhanced understanding of each country’s intelligence strategies and capabilities.

“It’s important they get a sense of our capabilities because they are our partners, so they are part of our link to North Africa,” said LaGesse. “With our partnerships, we can have a bit more understanding of the culture and the environment.”

Exercise African Lion 13 is an annually-scheduled military engagement promoting partnership between the U.S. and Moroccan forces and is the largest exercise of its kind on the continent. For the first time, members of the Federation of German Armed Forces participated in a geospatial portion of the exercise.

“The partnerships, whether it’s air, ground, or command-level, is forming bonds and bringing more cohesion between our militaries,” said LaGesse. “It’s vital to our friendships with [international] militaries, should we have a contingency effort and we ever need to work together.”

The U.S. Africa Command-scheduled multi-lateral exercise is led by U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Africa with support from Marine, Army, Air Force and Navy units throughout the U.S. The joint task force consisting of U.S. Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen were able to conduct modified bi-lateral and joint training for Exercise African Lion 13 demonstrating their ability to adapt to unpredicted circumstances, restore mission-essential tasks, build interoperability and create friendships during the three-week evolution. The logistics component exercised vigilant, safe and rapid retrograde of almost 1,200 personnel and 250 short-tons of vehicles and equipment while working with Moroccan partners and contractors to sustain the force and redeploy them back to their home stations in a timely and efficient manner.