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Silence from the sky

23 Oct 2008 | Cpl. Jason Spinella

Whether hidden by terrain features or cloaked by the darkness of night, enemy positions can be very difficult to locate and can halt troop movement. With an extra set of eyes in the sky in the form of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) and with its ability to survey and distinguish objects and terrain in adverse weather and light, the boots on the “deck” are now able to overcome these hindrances.

Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s intelligence section flew seven flight drills spanning over four miles to hone their operating skills with a UAV nick named the “Silver Fox,” Oct. 23.

“The UAV Silver Fox is the perfect tool for the commander to have eyes on the battlefield,” said Maj. Jude Shell, the 31st MEU Intelligence Officer in Charge. “It’s a forward reconnaissance asset giving the commander situational awareness of the area.”

The capabilities of the UAV are not only an exceptional addition to the tools a commander may use in a combat zone, but it also benefits the troops on the ground who are about to enter a potential hazard area.

According to Mr. Vernon Rummell, a civilian contractor with Advanced Ceramics Research (the manufacturer of the Silver Fox), the capabilities of the aircraft benefit the Marines when it comes to planning a future patrol and can gather valuable information on the environment potentially saving lives.

“This vehicle can move ahead of the patrol and see an enemy ambush, detect IED’s (Improvised Explosive Device) and gather other information to help decide how to neutralize the target,” said Rummell, a former Marine. “I’ve done nine months in Iraq with this aircraft, and I call this the guardian angel, it saves lives.”

Being able to pick up quick and shift positions or operate while on the move is a very crucial ability to an expeditionary unit. For Rummell, the Silver Fox is extremely mobile and easy to use at any time.

“The Silver Fox can be launched off any weapons system in the military and can be ready to fly in 15 minutes,” Rummell said.

Along with being very mobile and very effective, other important capabilities include the long range distance and duration of time the aircraft can cover, according to Sgt. Christopher Council, a UAV Silver Fox team commander.

“The aircraft can stay in flight for as long as ten hours, and can travel a distance of 20 nautical miles from the controller at an altitude of 12,000 feet,” said Council, a native of Valdosta Ga. “The aircraft is also modular, meaning the parts are interchangeable from one similar aircraft to the next, so I will always have a UAV ready to go.”

For the Marines flying the aircraft in Crow Valley, the experience was great because of the great surroundings provided here. For Cpl. Miles Crane, an intelligence analyst with the 31st MEU, the terrain added the effect of real world operations.

“The training out here was very efficient and effective for learning and flying experience,” said Crane, a Denver, Colo. native. “With the mountains, river stream and jungle, it provided a landscape I wasn’t accustomed to.”

The flight drills were conducted concurrently at Crow Valley with other various military training in support of Amphibious Landing Exercise FY 2009 (PHIBLEX ’09).  The exercise is an annual exercise focused on bilateral military training and upholding the long-lasting positive relationship between the Republic of the Philippines and the U.S.


31st Marine Expeditionary Unit