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Friday, June 1, 2007

Rotorcraft Report: New "Spies in the Sky" Task Force To Go Fully Operational This Month

MILITARY

The U.S. Army this month expects to make fully operational a new task force teaming fixed-wing unmanned aerial systems and rotary-wing assets in the fight against improved explosive devices (IEDs), according to the Army’s vice chief of staff, Gen. Richard Cody.

Task Force ODIN brings together a fleet of U.S. Army Beech/Raytheon C-12 Hurons fitted with special sensors and the General Atomics Warrior and AAI Corp. Shadow unmanned aerial systems with Boeing AH-64 Apaches and other helicopters. The fixed-wing manned and unmanned aircraft give the Army what Cody called "persistent stare," which allows combat commanders to observe insurgents as they scout positions in which to place IEDs and then conceal them.

At the Army Aviation Assn. of America annual gathering in Atlanta, Cody showed reporters declassified infrared video of a mission in which an Apache crew spotted a handful of people at a road intersection on the ground. The crew handed off the targets to the fixed-wing assets operating "well above 3,500 ft" and undetected by those on the ground; they maintained surveillance of the suspects while the Apache returned to base to refuel and re-arm, Cody said. "When the Apache left, they thought no one was watching them any more," he said. Upon the Apache’s return, the fixed-wing assets provided targeting information for a Hellfire missile launched from the AH-64 against the insurgents.

The Hellfire blast also detonated the IED, Cody said. In addition to that strike, the fixed-wing assets continued to track the surviving insurgents back to their base of operations. The Apache then killed the survivors with 30mm fire, Cody said, though he did not show that video. ODIN stands for observation, detection, identification, and neutralization.

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