AL KUT, Iraq -- The RQ2B Pioneer Unmanned Aerial Vehicle was used extensively during Operation Iraqi Freedom and saved the lives of many coalition troops during combat by providing an overhead view of the battlefield.
The pioneer, which has a 16.9 ft. wing span and is 14 ft. nose to tail, has a specialized camera which was used to find enemy artillery and tanks during the war, said Lt. Col. Robert Rice, commanding officer of Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 2 and Lyndhurst, Ohio, native.
"The Pioneer puts a highly technological camera [over the battlefield] without endangering lives," he said.
The camera on the pioneer can zoom in so far that it can identify between friendly and enemy vehicles and can even tell if a person on the ground is wearing glasses, said Cpl. John R. Rocha, VMU-1 UAV internal operator and Corpus Christi, Texas native.
The UAVs were effective in finding enemy artillery before they could be used, said Maj. John Pryce, operations officer for VMU-2 and Rutland, Mass., native.
" No Marine was killed by indirect weapons on the first day of the war," he said.
The UAVs were instrumental on the road to Baghdad. While coalition forces were advancing towards Baghdad, one of the pioneers found 47 pieces of artillery, including a Scud, near Suwarah, Iraq, said Rice. Because of the pioneers and their operators, the Iraqi military did not get the chance to use these weapons against advancing coalition troops.
The Pioneers along with Marines who fly and maintain them provided vital air support for troops on the ground and saved lives by finding enemy artillery before it could be used against coalition forces.