Army Aviation

Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems in USAREUR-AF

By CW5 Rich Tiu: The United States Army Europe & Africa (USAREUR-AF) TUAS have been present and continue to be operational in Europe since the civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina erupted in the early 1990s.

U.S. Army Shadow Tactical UAS in position to launch at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, Hohenfels, Germany./ U.S. ARMY JMRC PHOTO

The USAREUR-AF’s permanent forces include maneuver units such as the 2nd Cavalry Regiment (2CR) and 173rd Airborne Brigade (173d IBCT(A)). The TUAS platoons are assigned and stationed in the Federal Republic of Germany, where they conduct TUAS flight operations more frequently than any other European countries. The U.S. Army Europe & Africa has led the Department of Defense’s Atlantic Resolve land efforts since April 2014, by bringing units based in the United States to operate in Europe for nine months on a rotating basis. There are three types of Atlantic Resolve rotational forces – armored, aviation, and the sustainment task force, which have organic TUAS platoons. These rotations are overseen by a Division (Forward) element, and a regionally aligned headquarters element based in Poland. These deployments of ready, combat-credible United States forces to Europe in support of Atlantic Resolve is irrefutable evidence of the firm and continuing United States commitment to NATO and our European partners.

The United States Army and its NATO Allies continue to push the limits of tactical occupation and operation of the RQ-7Bv2 Shadow TUAS to be prepared for future challenges. During the maneuver units’ Combat Training Center (CTC) rotation in Hohenfels, Germany, at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, the TUAS Platoons, in conjunction with the unit’s Engineers, broke new ground and set the standard on conducting flight operations during a CTC rotation by establishing an expeditionary airstrip. The expeditionary airstrip was constructed and followed by the tactical occupation and initiation of flight operations, a physical demonstration of the Shadow TUAS’s capability as a true Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition (RSTA) asset for the maneuver units, which meets the commander’s intent.

Throughout the USAREUR-AF Operational Exercise in support of Atlantic Resolve, 2CR TUAS Platoon conducted the first tactical road march of more than 3,000 kilometers and successfully conducted flight operations in two countries (Poland and Lithuania). While operating in Poland, the TUAS Platoon conducted flights in host nation airspace controlled by a Joint Terminal Air Controller (JTAC) in an austere environment while operating from an expeditionary airstrip. Operating in Lithuania, the TUAS Platoon conducted flights in host nation airspace controlled by the local international airport tower and control center. Meanwhile, the Atlantic Resolve rotational forces had to establish a launch and recovery site while maneuvering in the European theater. In coordination with the host nations, the Shadow Platoons developed the Standard Operating Procedure for the Training Area with great success. The 1st Attack Reconnaissance Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, established a grass airstrip on the Polish Air Force base along the active runway, located near Powidz, Poland.

In Greece, the 6th Attack Reconnaissance Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division established a Joint Standard Operating Procedures for Shadow TUAS operations at Stefanovikieo Airbase, Greece. Winter operations in northern Europe occasionally requires alternate training solutions when weather conditions do not support consistent training opportunities. USAEUR has now expanded training opportunities in Greece. The expansion of these flight operations in Greece allowed the maneuver units to exercise and practice complete unit movements while maintaining mission readiness on an annual basis. The USAREUR-AF and Rotational Forces TUAS continue to challenge the status quo successfully. They are continuously searching for methods to expand and conduct UAS flight operations here in Europe, enhancing the alliance with our NATO partners.

Above the Best!

CW5 Jonathan P. Koziol is the chief warrant officer of the Aviation Branch with the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence, Fort Rucker, AL.

CW5 Rich Tiu is the USAREUR G-3 Aviation UAS Chief, stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany.