The Army’s commitment to equipping its total force with Future Combat System (FCS) capabilities continues as the first Army National Guard unit – the 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the Pennsylvania National Guard begins training next month with the FCS-developed gasoline-powered Micro Air Vehicle (gMAV) prior to the unit’s deployment to Iraq in January.The gMAV is a precursor technology to the FCS program’s Class I Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV) that will be fielded to Infantry Brigade Combat Teams starting in 2011. The Class I UAV is currently under evaluation by Soldiers of the Army’s Evaluation Task Force at Fort Bliss, Texas. The gMAV is man packable and provides a hover and stare capability not currently present in either Army or Air Force UAV inventories. Its sensor platform can take still and video imagery, which provides key intelligence for precision targeting and surveillance operations.

The 56th Stryker Brigade will replace elements of the 2/25th Stryker Brigade who have used the gMAV for reconnaissance and convoy protection operations while deployed to Iraq and participated in extensive gMAV testing and evaluation experiments prior to that.

“This fielding is unique as the 56th Stryker Brigade represents the first National Guard Unit to use FCS developed Unmanned Air Vehicles,” said Army Major Gregg Dellert, FCS assistant product manager for Micro Air Vehicle and Class I Block Zero Unmanned Air Vehicles. “The 2/25th Stryker Brigade has been using the gMAV for some time now, but we expect to gain new insight from the fresh user perspective the Guard Unit will bring.”

The gMAV started life as a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency initiative but battlefield needs, as stressed by a Joint Operational Needs Statement endorsed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2006, helped put the gMAV in the hands of Soldiers deployed to Iraq. The gMAV has also been successfully used in theater by the Navy as part of a joint task force ordnance explosive disposal unit.

Starting in early December, Dellert will train 10 Guardsmen from the 56th Stryker Brigade during a course on gMAV fundamentals and field use. Once deployed, these Soldiers will then be responsible for training gMAV operators. The 56th Stryker Brigade will use 15 gMAVs for reconnaissance and other protection operations. Due to their mission, it is expected that the National Guard Soldiers will find different ways to use the gMAV in theater.

“In terms of both the future development of the gMAV and the FCS Class I UAV, having a fresh set of eyes will prove very useful. These National Guard Soldiers will help our FCS developers make sure that future versions of these UAVs will have all capabilities required for robust mission sets.”

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