US Army AH-64 Apache battalions to receive 12 RQ-7 Shadow UASs

Defence & Security News - United States
US Army AH-64 Apache battalions to receive 12 RQ-7 Shadow UASs
The 1st Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment will become 3rd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, making it the first Apache battalion to be converted to a heavy attack reconnaissance squadron. The conversion adds three platoons of RQ-7 Shadow unmanned aerial systems to the unit and is part of the Army's five-year Aviation Restructuring Initiative. Part of the restructure eliminates the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior, the venerable armed scout reconnaissance helicopter, from the Army's inventory.
US Army Apache battalions to receive 12 RQ-7 Shadow UASsSoldiers from 501st Aviation Regiment, perform maintenance on a Shadow. (Photo: US Army)

In all, the Army will convert 10 units to the attack reconnaissance squadron structure. The armed reconnaissance mission is going to be performed by AH-64s teamed with unmanned systems, specifically the Shadow UAS. Two more units — 2nd Squadron, 17th Cavalry at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and 4th Squadron, 6th Cavalry at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington — are scheduled to be converted this fiscal year. Plans call for all 10 units to be converted by fiscal 2019.

When the conversions are completed, each division's combat aviation brigade will have an attack helicopter battalion, which has 24 Apaches, and an attack reconnaissance squadron with 24 Apaches and 12 Shadows. In addition, the attack battalions will be aligned with the MQ-1C Gray Eagle company that's assigned to each division.

The Shadow can provide real-time video from the battlefield, piped into the Apache cockpit, so the aircrews have more situational awareness. The Shadow also can feed that video into a tactical operations center and serve as a communications relay.

Before its conversion, 1st Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment had 24 Apaches in its inventory. As it converts to 3rd Squadron, 6th Cavalry, it will retain its Apaches and add three Shadow platoons for a total of 12 unmanned aerial aircraft. The unit also grows from about 400 soldiers to about 500.