NEWS | Oct. 12, 2017

UAS takes to the sky in Desert Observer

By Capt. Stephen James 29th Combat Aviation Brigade

The 29th Combat Aviation Brigade provided two unmanned aviation system liaisons and a MQ-1C Gray Eagle Unmanned Aerial System for Desert Observer, a combined training event held between Kuwaiti Land Forces and U.S. forces in Kuwait, from Sept. 10 to Sept. 14.

Staff Sgt. William Sowa and Chief Warrant Officer John Hayatt, both Army National Guard Soldiers who serve as UAS liaisons for the 29th CAB, provided a real-time, full-motion video feed from Gray Eagles supplied by Company D, 10th Aviation Regiment, throughout the exercise.

“Desert Observer showed how Kuwaitis could operate with U.S. forces to the point that our unmanned vehicle operators were comfortable responding to tasks from the Kuwaitis in a notional defense of Kuwait,” said Capt. Daniel Chapple, 29th CAB partnership officer.

The combined event included Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division and was also the first time UAS supplied by U.S. forces were under control of a Kuwaiti commander, which expanded interoperability between both U.S. and Kuwaiti forces.

“This exercise was the very first time a Kuwaiti Land Force commander had direct control over a U.S.-owned UAS asset,” said Sowa. “This exercise proved that the Kuwaiti Land Forces are capable of developing combined operations with U.S. forces utilizing UAS support.”

Providing UAS capability to the exercise allowed both U.S. and Kuwaiti forces to further work with emerging battlefield technologies as they continue to integrate UAS platforms into their own operations. The use of UAS during Desert Observer expanded previous interoperability training and will provide the Kuwait Land Forces another tool if required.

“Unmanned platforms in the military still seem to be misunderstood at all levels,” said Hayatt. “As they [UAS] become more integrated into joint operations such as these, leaders will gain a better understanding as to how they should be utilized.”

The 29th Combat Aviation Brigade is an Army National Guard brigade that provides aviation assets, operational and logistical support to Operation Spartan Shield while simultaneously supporting the fight against ISIS in Operation Inherent Resolve.