Boeing‘s [BA] Insitu Inc. recently said its ScanEagle unmanned aircraft system (UAS) assisted U.S. and NATO Forces in the mission to protect civilians and reduce the flow of arms to Libya.
During a 72-hour counter-terrorism surge supporting Operation Unified Protector (OUP), the ScanEagle UAS was operated organically aboard USS Mahan (DDG-72) to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) support. In strong winds, ScanEagle performed cooperatively with a host of U.S. and NATO participating forces.
“What happened over that period of time, no one expected,” said ScanEagle Detachment Officer in Charge Navy Lt. Nick Townsend said in a statement. “ScanEagle was locating contacts of interest that no one else could find. After the dust settled, ScanEagle was credited with locating a host of contacts of interest due to its ability to capture superior image quality and to operate covertly at relatively low altitudes.”
About a month earlier, a highly experienced team from Insitu operating aboard Mahan analyzed how ScanEagle was being used and how it might be operated more effectively. Based on the analysis, the team notified the command that if the opportunity arose, it was certain the ScanEagle UAS could successfully perform a variety of mission support tasks.
While the Mahan team waited to hear back from command about additional tasking orders, it continued to operate ScanEagle, performing routine ISR missions.
When the call came to support OUP, the Mahan team and ScanEagle were ready. Once on station, the team made an immediate impact, locating and classifying high value contacts of interest.
Imagery was delivered by secure networked channels from the ship to the task force through the Secure Video Injection system provided by Insitu parent Boeing. This gave decisionmakers the rapid, near real-time video needed to make quick, tactical decisions.
Later coordinating with an AWACS team, the Mahan ScanEagle team drew on ScanEagle’s 24-hour endurance to support additional phases of the mission, including battle damage assessment: ScanEagle delivered real-time, full-color imagery that was used to improve overall battlefield awareness and mission effectiveness. Townsend described ScanEagle as providing “shockingly effective combat support.”
The three-day tasking demonstrated how easily and effectively ScanEagle can be integrated into highly complex operations, the company said.
The Mahan team demonstrated the ability to employ ScanEagle to obtain precise imagery rapidly for actionable intelligence.
Insitu ScanEagle Site Lead Samuel Young said, “They (operational commanders) say ‘put the camera here’ and we put the camera there without going through layers of complex coordination. We get essential information directly to the decision makers fast.”
ScanEagle contract services through Insitu have a proven track record, maintaining a 99 percent mission-readiness rate and the ability to respond to time-sensitive, unplanned tasking within 30 minutes of notification.
On this deployment, ScanEagle’s second aboard Mahan, the team achieved a 100 percent mission-readiness rate, accruing 1,154 flight hours and 167 sorties.
“We go out on the ships and we integrate with the crew. Any success that we have is a reflection of them,” Young said.