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Okinawa, Japan
VMU-3 tests ability to fly in system and launch UAV within hours

By Lance Cpl. Isabelo Tabanguil | III Marine Expeditionary Force | October 23, 2017

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U.S. Marines with Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 3 (VMU-3) conducted an unmanned aerial systems training event at Landing Zone Westfield, Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Oct. 18, 2017.

The purpose of this event was to perform UAS operations using the minimal amount of personnel and equipment after arriving in a new location in order to operate immediately within a short amount of time.

“What we’re doing this week is testing the system configuration of the UAS system that we fly, the RQ-7B Shadow,” said Capt. Clayton Holland, the officer in charge of the UAS training fly-in echelon training event with VMU-3. “Typically that system has a pretty large footprint, and what we’ve done is configured it to be small enough to fit onto a C-130.”

Holland said the number of Marines conducting this UAS training event is reduced greatly than the usual with supplies of food, water, and fuel.

“Basically we started with a loading exercise on a C-130,” Holland said. “We packed up and embarked the system onto the aircraft, and unloaded it onto the landing zone. We continued to work until we were flight capable, and now we’re ready to launch.”

Staff Sgt. Cody Bowdoin, a quality assurance representative with VMU-3, said having a smaller footprint for the UAS makes it easier to perform operations while at the same time having the same capabilities if they had a larger number of personnel.

“It’s so awesome that we have this capability to be able to pack up all this equipment into a C-130,” Bowdoin said. “We’re mission capable with a lighter footprint, and can be sent to wherever we’re needed.”

Sgt. Thomas Holyoak, a plane captain with VMU-3, said the RQ-7B Shadow has multiple functions that are used in real world operations ranging from providing reconnaissance, surveying terrain, and observing enemy locations to support commanders and troops on the ground.

“We use the UAS for collecting intelligence, observing possible heat signatures at certain locations, and extending the range capability of the radios we have,” Holyoak said.

Holyoak said by having less equipment and manpower provides more mobility.

“We basically are saying to our customers in the future that we can be anywhere in the world within a 96 hour time period,” Holyoak said.
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