Warplanes: November 28, 2004


One of the most useful aircraft the marines had during the battle of Fallujah was the Pioneer UAVs. One squadron of RQ-2 Pioneer UAVs were available. The Pioneer has been in service for two decades, but because of a sound basic design, and constant upgrades in its sensors, it is still competitive with more recent UAV designs. The 450 pound Pioneer has a payload of 99 pounds, max endurance of 4.5 hours and max speed of 200 kilometers an hour (its stall speed is 94 kilometers an hour). Each marine UAV squadron has 4-5 Pioneers, and the aircraft usually fly about ten times a week. Sorties tend to be less than four hours. The UAVs cannot fly more than 180 kilometers from their control center. The main function of the UAVs is to show commanders what they cant see by other means. The Pioneer has day and night-vision vidcams, each of which has zoom capability. The operators can zoom further on the video or still pictures they are receiving, using software. 

In Fallujah, the enemy knew the UAVs were up there, and often too high (up to 15,000 feet) to be taken out with rifle fire. All over Iraq, hostile gunmen have learned to move around under cover, otherwise you may be spotted by a UAV, and risk getting killed shortly thereafter. Normally, the UAVs will only be used where lots of combat action is expected. After all, the UAV uses only one camera at a time, and the camera operators can only watch a relatively small area if they expect to be able to spot something. When theres a lot of action on the ground, the UAV up there is in big demand. Everywhere it goes, its going to see something useful to the guys on the ground. What makes the two Marine Corps Pioneer squadrons so useful is that they have people who have worked UAVs for a while, and that experience pays off when things are really jumping. The marines have dozens of smaller UAVs, which are also popular. But if you want the best results, call in a Pioneer from one of the UAV squadrons.




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