I MEF's new unmanned aerial vehicle

26 Aug 2004 | Sgt. Robert E. Jones Sr.

Two of the top leaders in the Marine Corps came to Camp Fallujah to see I Marine Expeditionary Force’s new “eyes in the sky.”

The Assistant commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. "Spyder" Nyland and Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps. Sgt. Maj. John L. Estrada viewed a demonstration of the Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle, August 23 at I MEF intelligence headquarters.

“The Scan Eagle is a low-cost, long-endurance fully autonomous UAV developed and built by Boeing and The Insitu Group exclusively for the Marine Corps,” said Dave Sliwa, Director of Flight Operations at The Insitu Group.

He said in June 2004, Boeing and Insitu were contracted by the Marine Corps to provide two Scan Eagle mobile deployment units (SMDUs) for I Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq.

SMDUs are made up of several UAV’s as well as the computers, communication links and ground equipment.

“Scan Eagle provides intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support for I Marine Expeditionary Force during operational mission.  It’s our eye in the sky,” said Sgt. Scott M. Freche, First Marine Division intelligence.  “Scan Eagle gives the war fighter an immediate, clear picture of the battlefield.”

Scan Eagle is launched autonomously by a pneumatic wedge catapult launcher and flies pre-programmed or operator initiated missions.

“It is retrieved using a “Skyhook” system in which the UAV catches a rope hanging from a 50-foot high pole,” said Freche.

Scan Eagle is 4-feet long and has a 10–foot wingspan, and offers a wide variety of design features

It’s small size and quiet operations make it very difficult to detect from the ground.

“Scan Eagle carries either an elctro-optical or infrared camera.  The camera allows the operator to easily track both stationary and moving targets,” said Sliwa.  “It can remain in flight for more than 15 hours.”

It can go up to approximately 10,000-feet with surveillance capabilities, said Freche.

Along with the Scan Eagle the military also employs the Predator UAV, which can launch Hellfire missiles and the Pioneer UAV, said Freche.

“The Marine Corps has been using the Pioneer up until this point,” said Freche.  “The Scan Eagle is not here to replace the Pioneer; it’s here to assist in the efforts of troop coverage on the ground.”

The reaction to this aerial phenomenon speaks for itself.

“This is simply an extraordinary piece of equipment.  It’s impressive,” said Gen. Nyland.

“I’m sold.  It’s a nice piece of equipment.  As a former Air Wing sergeant major, this type of aerial technology is amazing,” said Sgt. Maj. Estrada.

The Insitu Group, located in Bingen, Washington, develops miniature robotic aircraft for commercial and military applications.