MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Two Marines with the 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO) demonstrated the capabilities of the RQ-11B Raven unmanned aerial system during a Mountain Roundup exercise Oct. 9, 2013, at the Saylor Creek Range.
The Raven is a small, hand-launched, remote-controlled system which provides day and night real-time video imagery, reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition.
"The Raven is used for taking photos and video of enemy positions," said Marine Lance Cpl. Nicholas Thompson, 1st ANGLICO forward observer from Clinton, Iowa. "We can easily fly it into places where the enemy may or may not be, in order to gather strategic reconnaissance information."
The smallest of ANGLICO's unmanned aerial systems, the Raven has a wingspan of four feet-six inches, weighs four pounds, has a flight endurance of 60-90 minutes and an effective operational radius of approximately 6.2 miles.
"We utilize the Raven system as a tool to keep Marines and our coalition partners safe," said Marine Lance Cpl. William Thornton, 1st ANGLICO forward observer from San Bernardino, Calif. "With this device there isn't a need to send a squad into an unknown area. They could potentially walk into a trap or spend large amounts of time getting to the objective point, only to find zero enemy intelligence."
During their last deployment, Marines assigned to 1st ANGLICO worked with the British Army, Afghan National Army, and several other units from various nations.
"As 1st ANGLICO, we are attached to other units regularly and we utilize the Raven as a way for us to keep those fire-teams safe and give them as much information as possible," said Thornton. "It's a stealthy, reconnaissance tool which, when used correctly, can assist in bringing everyone home safe and ultimately winning the battle."
One key factor of the Raven's tactical usefulness is how quickly it can be put together and then operated.
"One of the main reasons why it's such a valuable asset is because two Marines can assemble and then operate it within 10 minutes," said Thornton. "Once it's in the air, we immediately begin tracking enemy movements and relaying enemy locations. We pull the video feed into the combat operations center and are able to keep leadership up-to-date on friendly and enemy grid locations as well as targeting information. The Raven is so incredibly stealthy that many times the enemy doesn't realize it's even there."
During Mountain Roundup, which is part of German Air Force Tornado Fighter Weapons Instructor Course Mission Employment Phase, 1st ANGLICO Marines are utilizing the system in-front of forward fire-teams.
"We are using it for extremely specialized training here at Mountain Roundup," said Thornton. "After our forward teams move-out, we can launch the Raven to specific grid sites and have eyes on what the teams will encounter within minutes. We can track both friendly and opposition forces while keeping high enough so no one is aware of its presence. If they are looking at a grid and cannot make out the images, we fly the Raven over the area and alert our teams on what the threat-level is."
The history of ANGLICO goes all the way back to World War 2, when they first began doing close-air support missions and continued into Korea and Vietnam, when they began partnering with other nations and into modern times.
"As 1st ANGLICO we are attached to other units regularly and we utilize the Raven as a way for us to keep those fire-teams safe and give them as much information as possible," said Thornton. "It's a stealthy, reconnaissance tool which assists us during battle and ultimately helps us win."