MQ-1C Sky Warrior UAS Field Tested In Combat Situations
Placing a new aircraft in a combat situation is a true test of
its capabilities and future role within the Army. Unmanned aircraft
systems have become a mainstay in military operations during
Operation Iraqi Freedom; injecting new concepts and technologies
will only further push the uses of these aircraft.
Quick Reaction Capability 1, attached to 1st Air Cavalry
Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, U.S. Division - Center, is a small
unit with a handful of Soldiers deployed from Unmanned Aircraft
Systems Training Battalion out of Fort Huachuca, AZ, that has spent
the past months putting the new MQ-1C Sky Warrior UAS through
numerous tests to help Department of Army officials determine the
path of the unmanned aircraft systems.
The Sky Warrior, a system larger than the Predator, is operated
by Soldiers in Iraq as opposed to being flown remotely from the
United States. It has a wing span of 56 feet and is capable of
carrying Hellfire missiles.
The Department of the Army wanted QRC1 to be assigned to the
Baghdad area of operations; and since the 1st Cavalry Division was
in charge of operations for Baghdad at the time, the unit fell
under 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, said Capt. Travis Blaschke, from
Spokane, Wash., commander of QRC1. "This aircraft is in its
infancy. The aircraft that we have right now on the flight line are
the first aircraft produced by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems
and deployed by the Army," said Blaschke. "All of the aircraft were
built during the Development and Testing phase of the acquisition
process, which means all the aircraft are prototypes."
Even though the Sky Warrior is still in a testing phase, it is
being used in missions to support units on the ground. Through
these missions, the QRC1 unit is gathering data to determine the
direction the program will go. "Our mission is to support [U.S.
Division - Center] on all of their [reconnaissance surveillance and
target acquisition] missions by providing aero-scout capabilities
to the maneuver commander," said Blaschke. "Our secondary mission
is to validate the MQ-1C for the program of record."
Program of record, or POR, is the final milestone for any new
Army asset. This will move the MQ-1C from development and testing
into full rate production and adoption into the Army's common
The Army saw a need for having division-level UAS assets similar
to the Air Force Predator. The Sky Warrior MQ-1C will answer this
need, said Blaschke. "We are actually testing the concept of
operations, system limitations, hardware and software," he said.
"We are working through a lot of challenges by forging a new path,
but it has been worth it to see the incredible progress." QRC1 is a
program that has been developed to assume and mitigate a lot of the
risk for the POR, which should be developed in about three years,
If the QRC1 program is successful, the Army has a plan in place
to give every aviation brigade multiple Sky Warriors starting in
2011, said Blaschke. The aircraft would be a division-level asset
and would be further dispersed down to the combat units to support
the maneuver commanders.
Along with the ability to conduct surveillance and fly well
beyond a dozen hours, once testing is complete, the Sky Warrior
will be armed with Hellfire missiles, which will add another
dimension to its combat role. "This is an aircraft that can have
different payloads," said Blaschke. "It has the capability of
actually looking out long distances in order to find the enemy in
different ways. Whether it is using the image intelligence, using
signal intelligence, using measuring intelligence, this platform
can not only find the enemy but will ultimately be able to engage
and neutralize the enemy."
The Sky Warrior also has the capability to point out targets for
other aircraft - enabling them to hit their target while the Sky
Warrior aims, said Blaschke. It can guide in a Hellfire from an
AH-64D Apache attack helicopter (pictured below) or even Joint
Direct Attack Munitions from an F/A-18 Super Hornet, F-16 Fighting
Falcon or F-22 Raptor - making a hunter-killer team.
However, the Sky Warrior with all of its technology is nothing
more than a display model without the men and women who operate the
aircraft and know its full capabilities. "The operators of the
system need to be at the highest level of proficiency and also
maintain the proper situational awareness to ensure they are
supporting the ground commander to the best of their ability," said