Bombing Target Range 11, Piney Island, N.C. -- Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 2 conducted integrated training with 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion, Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 167 and HMLA-467 at Bombing Target Range 11, Piney Island, N.C., Dec. 18.
VMU-2 supported Marine special operators, trained as joint terminal attack controllers, by providing unmanned aerial reconnaissance for simulated close air support and casualty evacuation drills.
The squadron launched an RQ-7B Shadow unmanned aerial vehicle from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., and operated the aircraft until it was in range to turn over its controls to a small detachment of Marines who set up a hasty command operations center within radio communication range of the JTACs operating at Piney Island.
“Our job is to provide a stable and safe platform that can locate enemy activity and assist in their elimination,” said 1st Lt. Jeremy D. Eshleman, an unmanned aerial system mission commander with VMU-2. “Through the use of our laser guidance system, the pilots of the UH-1Y Venom performing simulated close air support missions can deliver effective and precise fire on targets.”
During the training, the pilots of the aircraft were able to identify all possible threats and provide grids for terminal guidance operations, using the aircraft’s laser for accurate, simulated Hell Fire missiles, said Staff Sgt. William F. Franceschini, an unmanned aerial vehicle operator with the squadron.
“Situational awareness is paramount during these missions,” said Franceschini, a native of Pittsburgh. “While flying we listen to all conversations from each of the different players involved in the mission. This allows us to provide much needed information as quickly as possible.”
As a UAV operator, Franceschini’s duty during missions is controlling the aircraft while another unmanned aerial vehicle operator maneuvers and monitors the aircraft’s video feed to provide accurate grid locations and targeting.
According to Eshleman, a native of Lancaster, Pa., coordinating with the Shadow’s crew allows allows JTACs to have the best understanding of their surroundings without exposing manned aircraft to enemy threats.