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Shadow UAV guides artillery training

Shadow UAV guides artillery training
Lieutenant Dallin Stirling attaches post-flight safety tags to a Shadow 200 during Exercise Dragon Sprint at the Townsville Field Training Area. Photo: Petty Office Lee-Anne Cooper

Live-fire artillery training has been conducted with the support of new UAV targeting capability. 

Live-fire artillery training has been conducted with the support of new UAV targeting capability. 

The Shadow 200 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) has demonstrated its target support capability during Exercise Dragon Sprint, held at Townsville Field Training Area late last month.

Gunners of the 131st Battery, 20th Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery, provided laser-designated coordinates for artillery and close-air support from approximately 9,000 feet above the battlefield. 


Tiger helicopters launched hellfire missiles guided by the UAV’s coordinates, with three dots forming a triangular sight held over a target.

20th Regiment Adjutant Captain Christopher Moroney lauded the successful operation of the Shadow UAVs.

“Shadow can designate a vehicle-size target with as much accuracy as a Tiger. This reduces the risk to the Tiger – or another manned platform – doing it for itself,” he said. 

“This, however, does not replace the ground-based observer, as we are a weather-dependent system.”

The UAV enables forward observers to view the target from a distance before missiles are fired.

“The target location depends on how close they need to be to that target,” gun detachment commander Bombardier Bryson Smith, from the 106th Battery, 4th Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery said.

“They have to have a good line of sight to call in effective fire, so with UAVs, they do not need to be as close to the target and you can get a better acquisition and we can fire more effective rounds.” 

The UAV has a range of 125 kilometres, capable of flying beyond the artillery’s maximum range. The range was extended during the exercise by dislocating the Shadow operators 50 kilometres from the airfield, creating a 'battery forward position'. 

This capability resulted in 12 successful Hellfire designations over the course of the exercise.

“Apart from range and target information, we can provide video, stills and have the ability to observe day and night using infrared,” CAPT Moroney added. 

“Being an aerial observer, it gives us a better perspective of the battlefield and you always want height and good optics to engage the target. This allows adjustments to be made more efficiently.”

The deployment of the UAV followed extensive simulation training.

“First, we work in the simulator, and then practise it and execute it for real,” CAPT Moroney continued.

“It ultimately proves the system works and the soldiers are ready.”

Exercise Dragon Sprint also served as a training opportunity for the School of Army Aviation, with Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Scott Doré, leading a team of Tiger training staff and three trainee pilots.

“It is a unique opportunity for us to develop our staff and for our trainees to see and be exposed to training they would not normally have the opportunity to at this point,” he said.

“We train our gunnery on a simulator and you do not get all the learning associated with expending live rounds and going through the range safety planning involved with a live-fire activity.”

Staff from the School of Army Aviation assessed the feasibility of supporting similar exercises.

“Our aircraft support staff are not just refuelling, they are practising the core skills of loading ordnance onto an aircraft from a deployed location in the field, which is what our tradesmen joined the Army to do,” LTCOL Doré added. 

Exercise Dragon Sprint capped off a series of training drills held in the lead up to Exercise Talisman Sabre.

[Related: Australian soldiers join war fighting exercise in the US]

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