Maintenance keeps Shadow UAV flying in support of Saber Strike

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ADAZI, Latvia — “All the magic happens because of the maintenance performed on the aircraft,” said Michigan Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Mike Rosier, a 15 E maintenance non-commissioned officer in B Company, Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Military Intelligence Company (MICO) Shadow Unmanned Aircraft Systems platoon.

The Shadow UAS maintenance section handles pre-flight inspections and maintenance, placing the RQ-7B Shadow aircraft on the hydraulic launcher and launching the aircraft at the beginning of each mission. Once the aircraft lands, the maintainers recover the aircraft and perform post-flight preventive maintenance checks and services on the Shadow.

Rosier said, “Our day starts like this, at 6:00 A.M. we open the hangar, receive a briefing from the mission coordinator and perform PMCS on the aircraft. After determining that the aircraft is flight worthy, we roll it out to the launcher and emplace it for launching. We launch the aircraft and the 15 W operators take control of the aircraft and conduct the assigned mission with it.”

“Once the aircraft lands,” said Rosier, “The crew chief recovers it, supervises the ground crew as they inspect and perform maintenance on the aircraft. The crew chief ensures that safety measures are known and enforces them. Saber Strike 14 has allowed our qualified ranking 15 E Soldiers the opportunity to serve as crew chief and that is hands-on leadership that improves our unit. The UAS platoon is only as good as our Soldiers are.”

Sgt. Corey Wesche, a 15 E maintainer said, “I was responsible for fueling the aircraft today. We are very careful with the fueling process for environmental and safety reasons. We test the fuel we have stored for impurities, empty any fuel in the aircraft prior to mission and we carefully measure the amount we put in the aircraft’s fuel tank. The fuel is drained and replenished prior to flight for two reasons, first, we don’t want the risk of fuel that has developed impurities to foul the engine. This could cause an in-flight emergency and we don’t want to endanger anyone. Second, we want to be certain that our aircraft is filled to exact capacity before we launch it, insuring that the aircraft can return to the airfield.”

Wensche said, “All of our pre and post flight maintenance is logged on computer. This allows us to keep a permanent record of the aircraft’s lifespan and ensures we address any annual, date or flight time specific maintenance in a prompt manner.”

The 15 E maintainers were alerted that an aircraft launched in the morning was inbound. Radio communications between the mission commander and control shelter confirmed that the ground control system had assumed control of the aircraft and the maintainers stood by for recovery. Once the aircraft had landed and was stopped by the arrest cables, the maintainers scrambled to wheel it back to the maintenance bay.

Wensche said, “Now that we have our aircraft back, we’ll begin post flight PMCS procedures. There is always something for our maintenance section to do to keep our aircraft flying!”

Story by Sgt. 1st Class Jim Downen, Michigan National Guard