Bots, Grunts, Choppers Team up for Air Assaults

41800_11281826b.jpgThe Army's 25th Infantry Division's Combat Aviation Brigade has put together a pretty unusual cast to hunt Iraqi insurgents: chopper pilots, sensor analysts, foot soldiers, Navy bomb techs... and three-foot tall robots.The forms a kind of rapid reaction force in the sky, Stars & Stripes reports. They call the missions "Lightning Strikes."

Commanders and ground troops have long complained that efforts to capture insurgents on the ground are often stymied by the noise and visibility of their vehicles. Helicopter pilots have also complained that they have observed suspicious activities from the air, but have been unable to summon ground troops quickly enough to investigate.The Lightning Strike missions are aimed at solving both those problems. The 25th Infantry Divisions Combat Aviation Brigade staged its first such mission in Iraq this week when it launched a team of Kiowa and Black Hawk helicopters containing a number of foot soldiers, ordnance technicians and a bomb disposal robot...The missions differ from traditional air assaults or raids in that they are not flying to a specific target. Instead, the aircraft go out in search of suspicious activity in an area that hasnt seen a heavy coalition presence.At the same time, the team is essentially on call to respond to situations observed by other units in other areas. Commanders give the example of tracking down and stopping a vehicle that was seen fleeing a bombing or an attack...The mission was part of a larger, ongoing operation in northern Iraq dubbed Snake Hunter. The operation involves the creative use of military aircraft in the fight against roadside bombs, and is aimed at intercepting insurgents before they fully arm and conceal the explosives.If an [improvised explosive device] has already blown up, then the initiative is already with the enemy, Tate said. Were trying to work left of the boom. We want to interdict before the [bomb] blows up.
Army units have been dropping from the sky with 100-pound, three-feet-high, bomb-fighting Talon 'bots for more than a year. But only on select missions. During attack raids, similar to these "Lightning Strikes," "we left the robots in the garage," one air assault veteran tells Defense Tech. But that was then.
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