The U.S. Army’s Predator

No, not that kind of Predator (although truth be told that was the first thing I thought of when I saw the title).

Sgt. Matthew Hyland, imagery analyst with Company A, Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, watches live video feed from the Predator flying high above the desert skies during Network Integration Evaluation 13.1 Oct. 24. The Air Force flew the aircraft while the army watched the video making this the first joint service training during NIE.

The Army and Air Force linked training by flying the Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle from Holloman Air Force Base, N.M, with the video feed displayed live at the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division’s Tactical Operations Center at Dona Ana Range during Network Integration Evaluation 13.1 on Oct. 24, making this the first time a joint mission has occurred during NIE.

The Predator has multiple assets including thermal imagery, infrared video, full motion video and the ability to fly at high altitudes and not be heard.

A Mobile Directional Antenna System is connected to a Tactical Ground Station where it captures the information from the UAV and sends the live video feed directly to the network where it is dispersed to the battalion or company level.

“We’ve never had a NIE link from a Predator to a tactical ground station to battalions via WIN-T increment two,” said Maj. Brian Cunningham, intelligence officer in charge of 2nd BCT, 1st AD.

The Warfighter Information Network Tactical (WIN-T) increment two is a high-speed and high-capacity backbone communications network.  It provides command centers and staff elements with the capabilities to link adjacent, subordinate and sustaining base, joint, allied and coalition forces while on the move.

Sgt. Matthew Hyland, imagery analyst with Company A, Special Troops Battalion, 2nd BCT, 1st AD, said the Predator allows “more eyes” on the ground giving insight not seen by troops on the ground.

“The Predator can provide us with situational awareness and provides direct support for the ground troops alerting them of impeding enemy attacks before the troops see them,” said Hyland.

According to Capt. John Patrick, weapons and tactics officer at HAFB, students were training to fly and mange the cameras on the aircraft and they received information from the Brigade Modernization Command of the NIE mission.

“Major Cunningham sent us grid coordinates for the aircraft to look at certain areas,” said Patrick.

During the flight, the students spotted two tanks and a technical vehicle near a village and alerted the ground crew. The information was used for a training mission and gave the battalion critical intelligence information for their mission.

The two services benefited from the training maneuver as students honed their flying skills while analysts on the ground viewed the live video feed, detecting threats on the ground.

“It worked out our training synched together and we [air force] could help out,” said Patrick.

Sgt. 1st Class Nathan S. Bean, brigade intelligence noncommissioned officer in charge for 2nd BCT, 1st AD, said this was a very exciting opportunity for the two services to link up their training and it was a win-win operation for both forces.

“They are piggybacking off our exercise and we are piggybacking off their training, making it a joint intelligence operation,” said Bean.

Bean said flying the Predator during NIE and having the real video feed during the operational phase during NIE pushes the capabilities of the network, proving its results.

“This shows us we have the capability to push full motion video through the network,” said Bean.

NIE is an adaptive and evolutionary approach to designing, integrating and maturing the Army’s tactical network.

NIE 13.1 is the fourth in a series of semi-annual, soldier-led exercises critical to building our network and allowing the Army to leverage industry, eliminate burdens on deployed forces and reduce acquisition costs while providing greater capability to soldiers faster.

Story and photos by Sgt. 1st Class Lori A. Kuczmanski
Brigade Modernization Command

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