August 5, 2006:
Poland is buying $73 million worth of Shadow 200 UAVs from the United States. In the U.S. Army, each RQ-7B Shadow 200 UAV platoon has 22 troops who operate and maintain 3-4 UAVs and the ground control equipment. Typically, each combat brigade has one Shadow UAV platoon.
The Shadow 200 UAVs cost $500,000 each, 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 15,000 feet, the Shadow can thus go into hostile territory and stay high enough (over 10,000 feet) to be safe from hostile rifle and machine-gun fire.
In Iraq, most Shadow missions are at a lower altitude, and over a city or town. Brigade and battalion commanders can then get a constant top down view of what's happening down below. Although this sort of thing is technically possible with a commander in a helicopter overhead, the helicopter attracts too much enemy fire to make this practical for any length of time. The Shadow UAV, however, can fly high enough in day time to be safe from enemy fire. A night, the Shadow can come down lower because they are difficult to spot in the dark.
The Poles have been impressed with the Shadow's combat record in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since being introduced three years ago, American Shadows have flown over 10,000 sorties, and logged over 40,000 flight hours in combat zones. Polish troops were able to see the Shadow in action in Iraq. Apparently, Poland is buying enough Shadows to equip all of their combat brigades with a platoon of them.