Desert Hawk UAV (21 Air Assault Battery, Royal Artillery)

21 Air Assault Battery Royal Artillery has been serving in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Although this is the Battery’s fourth tour of Afghanistan, (and second providing the Desert Hawk Unmanned Air System on operations) the conversion to Unmanned Air Systems (UAS) is now set to be permanent. On returning to the UK, 21 Air Assault Battery becomes an Integrated Unmanned Aircraft Systems (I-UAS) Battery, able to provide support with a complete spectrum of Unmanned Air Vehicles ranging from the small Counter IED T-Hawk to the impressive Watchkeeper.

Currently the Battery is very much focused on providing 16 Air Assault Brigade with the Desert Hawk 3 (DH3) Mini Unmanned Air Vehicle; a small, lightweight, mobile and rapidly deployable system, whose flexibility and agility make it ideal for supporting an Air Assault Brigade in Afghanistan. The ability to provide a real time picture and situational awareness is proving invaluable to the Commanders on the ground. Typically in theatre the Detachments supporting Company and Squadron groups are made up of a self-contained team of three to five individuals, integrated into the Intelligence Surveillance Target Acquisition Reconnaissance (ISTAR) assets that the manoeuvre Arm Commander in Afghanistan now has at his disposal.

The DH3 can be quickly assembled, launched and recovered from within the tactical battle area and has been used to recce routes, over-watch target compounds and identify enemy firing positions to enable the cross cuing of other assets to target the enemy (including an F18 strike on occasion). It has contributed to a number of our successes.

The flexibility of the system has allowed the DH3 to support the whole range of missions conducted by 16 Air Assault Brigade, from dismounted or mobility Ops to support of a Helicopter Assault Force. The latest upgrades to the DH3 payload have added significantly to the intelligence gathering capability of the system. Its ability to assist in the compilation of target packs and patrol reports has been significant.

As 16 Air Assault Brigade returns to preparing for contingency operations after Op HERRICK 13, 21 Air Assault Battery will also embrace the future within its new I-UAS role and continued support to the Brigade. There is no doubt that the effectiveness of the UAS capability on current operations has been proven, and is definitely a capability that any future Airborne or Air Assault Task Forces would want to have within their armoury.

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