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Hinesville soldier flies drones
SGT Adams
U.S. Army Sgt. Jonathan Adams of Hinesville is part of the new class of unmanned aircraft systems operators who will deploy in 2010. - photo by Photo provided.
POWAY, Calif., and HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — U.S. Army soldiers who will operate the newest most technologically advanced unmanned aircraft system when it deploys in 2010 recently received a sneak preview of the vehicles they will fly in combat.  
U.S. Army Sgt. Jonathan Adams of Hinesville is part of the new class of UAS operators. “I am glad to be deploying with the team of operators we have. A lot of them have good experience from working with other UAS platforms, but there’s also a good mix of new younger soldiers who can bring new stuff to the table as well,” Adams said. “We’re making a mark in history for unmanned aircraft systems, and I am proud to be a part of that history.”
The UAS operators toured the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. production facility in California where the new extended-range/multi-purpose unmanned aircraft system is being manufactured. They also met the men and women building the vehicles and thanked them for their support.
Col. Gregory Gonzalez, unmanned aircraft systems project manager, is responsible for the acquisition and fielding of all Army unmanned aircraft systems.
“All combat tools have human faces behind them — from the designers to the builders to the users — and it is important for our soldiers to thank the great people who provide the tools they need to fight the unfortunate conflicts we face,” said
This class of UAS operators has experience operating UAS in theater, including warrior-class systems also built by General Atomics, and the Shadow and Hunter tactical UAS. They are deploying two years ahead of schedule to bring the new technology to areas of conflict.  The rapid deployment is in response to the April 2008 challenge by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to field tools to soldiers faster.  
The Army developed the quick reaction capability initiative to move delivery of the aircraft from 2011 to 2009, deploying the QRC-1 unweaponized system in July 2009 in support of Overseas Contingency Operations in Iraq.  The new class of operators will deploy with QRC-2, weaponized with four helicopter launcher laser guided fire and forget missiles, in late 2010.  
The missiles, originally designed for use on Apache helicopters, are modified with a new inertial navigation system and the autopilot modified to accept target location information, allowing for improved high altitude engagements.
“The Army developed the ER/MP UAS program to meet the growing demand from combatant commanders who need real-time information and the capability to conduct long-dwell, wide-area reconnaissance and surveillance, as well as precision strike missions,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Messer, extended-range/multi-purpose product manager.  “Time and time again, unmanned systems save soldiers’ lives by providing the right information at the right time.”
The latest technologies available in the extended-range/multi-purpose unmanned aircraft system include a heavy fuel engine, triple redundant avionics, and redundant flight controls/surfaces, and network connectivity that reduces information cycle time and enhances overall battlespace awareness. It is capable of flying for more than 30 hours, can operate with or without satellite communications data links. In addition to carrying four helicopter launcher laser guided fire and forget missiles, the aircraft has a Lynx block 30 synthetic aperture radar/ground moving target indicator for immediate situational awareness and target detection.
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