Meet ‘The angry lawnmower’ that flew at Exercise MAPLE RESOLVE 2017

Article / June 27, 2017 / Project number: 17-0167

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By Steven Fouchard, Army Public Affairs

Each year, one of the Canadian Army (CA)’s four divisions is given the responsibility of being in a state of High Readiness. To prepare, their members undergo a full year of intense training, culminating in Exercise MAPLE RESOLVE (Ex MR). Taking place annually at Canadian Forces Base/Area Support Unit Wainwright in Alberta, Ex MR is planned and conducted by staff at the Canadian Manoeuvre Training Centre. It offers a full-scale dress rehearsal for combat and serves as a validation of each participating division’s high readiness. Beginning in July 2017, it is 4th Canadian Division (4 Div)’s turn and in response it has created Taskforce TOMAHAWK, which will stand in High Readiness until June 30, 2018. Taskforce members took part in this Ex MR 2017 from May 14-29. The following article is one of a series of dispatches from the field.

Wainwright, Alberta — On May 17, a small group of Canadian and United States Army members are expectantly awaiting the launch of an RQ 7B unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). It is one of a pair brought by U.S. National Guard members to Exercise MAPLE RESOLVE (Ex MR) 2017.

“The angry lawnmower,” one remarked.

Most of us probably wouldn’t associate a UAV with something as low-tech as a lawnmower, but the RQ 7B’s engine does sound very much like one when it takes flight.

Several of the observing soldiers have their camera phones poised to capture the moment. They are told not to expect action anytime soon: Between warming up the engine and pressurizing the launcher, the process takes over 10 minutes.

Once the RQ 7B does take to the sky, it’s doubtful a mere camera phone will be able to capture a clear image since the hydraulic launcher, not unlike those used on aircraft carriers, will propel the vehicle at 70 knots, or over 120 kilometres per hour.

The National Guard is here working alongside Canadians from the4th Artillery Regiment (General Support). Together they are providing targeting support to artillery batteries in the mock conflict that is Ex MR.

Warrant Officer 1 Jacob Kazmierski is a member of the Wisconsin National Guard unit that brought the newer of the two vehicles, the RQ 7B Version Two. While it is in flight, where it will remain for anywhere between six and nine hours, he shows off the Version One model to observers.

There is a hook on the UAV’s rear that, as with a manned aircraft landing on a carrier, must snag a line that will bring it to a stop. The 200 kilogram RQ 7B is operated by two crewmembers – a pilot and a camera operator – located in a nearby ground vehicle. In the event of mechanical failure, or damage from enemy fire, it is equipped with a 46 square metre parachute.

The RQ 7B is similar to the Blackjack UAVs that will be coming to the CA in the coming months and the CA members working collaboratively with the National Guard, are watching closely.

The American team, explained WO1 Kazmierski, is supporting the exercise by performing a wide range of tasks, including surveillance and targeting roles.

“We want to make sure we can work correctly with not just U.S. forces but make sure we’re able to feed our video into allies’ systems as well,” he said.

“We also have laser pointers so we can show what areas we’re looking at from the sky. And we have communications relay packages. If you look at the wingtips, they look like coat hangers hanging off the sides. There’s little radios in there and allies can bounce their communications off our plane and send it down to more people. So we have a lot of different missions we’re looking to train on.”

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