Warplanes: USMC UAV Aviation Expands


July 27, 2011: Recently, the U.S. Marine Corps deployed another UAV detachment in southwest Afghanistan. The detachment, part of Marine UAV Squadron 3, uses the U.S. Army RQ-7B Shadow 200 UAV. What the army calls a Shadow platoon, the marines call a UAV detachment. The Shadow 200 is most widely used by the U.S. Army, where each Shadow 200 UAV platoon has 22 troops and operates four UAVs, plus the ground control equipment. Typically, each combat brigade has one Shadow platoon. Each marine UAV squadron has 8-12 Shadow 200s, and some smaller (40 pound) ScanEagle UAVs. Three years ago, the marines replaced their two decade old Pioneer UAVs with the Shadow 200. Last year, the marines bought another Shadow detachment.

Each 159 kg (350 pound) Shadow 200 UAV costs $500,000, and can stay in the air 5.5 hours per sortie. A day camera and night vision camera is carried on each aircraft. Able to fly as high as 5 kilometers (15,000 feet), the Shadow can thus go into hostile territory and stay high enough (over three kilometers) to be safe from hostile rifle and machine-gun fire. The Shadow UAVs can carry 25.5 kg (56 pounds) of equipment, is 3.6 meters (11 feet) long and has a wingspan of 4.1 meters (12.75 feet). The Shadow has a range of about 50 kilometers. The army has had great success with the Shadow 200, which is what caught the attention of the marines (who found that the UAV worked as advertised)

In the army, the RQ-7 is going to be replaced in the next few years. But there is still an enormous demand for UAVs just now. So the 124 RQ-7s already delivered are being worked hard (they have already flown over 500,000 hours), and will probably be heavily used until worn out or lost in action. Last year, the army will begin receiving a Predator class replacement for the Shadow 200, the 1.4 ton MQ-1C.





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