Shadowing operations from above

Published on CPL Mark Doran (author), SGT Tiffany Edwards (USMC) (author)

Location(s): Shoalwater Bay Training Area

Topic(s): Exercise TALISMAN SABRE

Able Seaman Avionics Technician Tony Clark, of the 131st Surveillance Target Acquisition Battery, 20th Surveillance and Target Acquisition Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery, inspects the US Army’s RQ-7B v2 Shadow 200 remotely piloted aerial system in use at the Shoalwater Bay Training Area during Exercise Talisman Sabre (photo: CPL Mark Doran)
Able Seaman Avionics Technician Tony Clark, of the 131st Surveillance Target Acquisition Battery, 20th Surveillance and Target Acquisition Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery, inspects the US Army’s RQ-7B v2 Shadow 200 remotely piloted aerial system in use at the Shoalwater Bay Training Area during Exercise Talisman Sabre

One Royal Australian Navy sailor had the opportunity to work as a maintainer on the United States unmanned aerial vehicles flown in Australia, during recent joint exercise TALISMAN SABRE.

Able Seaman Aviation Technician Avionics Tony Clark was acting crew chief throughout the exercise and was responsible for the launching and recovery of the aircraft, known as Shadow 200, as well as the technical inspections.

Able Seaman Clark said he was thrilled to have had the chance to work with  Australian Army Artillery and United States Army Cavalry soldiers during the exercise.

“The main training value was in overcoming the priorities of operating in a busy, manned and unmanned airspace,” he said.

“The terrain around the airstrip was also a challenge because of the dust and rocks.”

With its airborne infra-red camera, the newest version of the Shadow is capable of flying day and night operations and targets other armed manned or unmanned aircraft.

The Shadow also provides a search and reconnaissance capability to troops on the ground, looking ahead for possible ambush sites.

A primary mission during the exercise was practising aerial reconnaissance for the coalition helicopters. With over seven years’ experience in the Navy, Able Seaman Clark said there were some challenges in adapting to the lifestyle of the Army regiment.

“The lingo was challenging at first and there were a lot of acronyms I’d never heard of,” he said. 

“The experience of working in an Army unit has been amazing.

“The mateship has been great.”