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News > Feature - Ardent Sentry Exercise 2012
Story at a Glance
 2012 Joint Exercise with military and civilian entities utilizing RPAs
 First CONUS joint operation involving RPAs
Ardent Sentry Exercise 2012

Posted 7/7/2012   Updated 7/7/2012 Email story   Print story

    


by Capt. Perry L. Covington
163d Reconnaissance Wing


7/7/2012 - 5/18/2021 -- On May 7, 2012 the 163d Reconnaissance Wing took part in the Ardent Sentry Exercise. This major exercise focused on Defense support of civil entities during a crisis situation. The object of the exercise was to launch an MQ-1 Predator from Fort Polk by the 147th Reconnaissance Wing, have it handed over to the 163D RW pilots located in California, and patrol an area in Louisiana where a simulated hurricane has hit. Ardent Sentry marked the first time a Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) was flown in the national airspace (NAS) for a search and rescue mission exercise such as this.

Major Dawn Junk, CONR 1AF, Chief Domestic Operations & Special Missions said, "This is a new air operation era in which RPAs are becoming more common. One of the purposes of this exercise was to figure out the processes and procedures to incorporate RPAs into the national airspace safely and effectively."

Coordination across several agencies was required for an undertaking of this magnitude. Air National Guard units and active duty Air Force components worked along with other agencies such as; Department of Homeland Security, Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to test and prove that RPAs are indeed an asset during times of crisis in the national airspace.
"This is one of the first times we have flown in the National Airspace on this scale. The 163d has the capability to assist other units in operations without any difficulty. What made this exercise a success was the fact that all entities both civilian and military were willing to help and willing to be flexible," said Major Brandon Powell, lead pilot during the exercise from the 163d RW.

During the exercise Major Powell and Master Sgt. Matt Rose flew the MQ-1 over the simulated hurricane stricken area locating survivors and pointing out crucial obstacles to the civilian rescue groups on the ground.

"One of the things we wanted to prove was the fact that we could fly flawlessly in the NAS and that the live feed we could provide was available to all the players involved, and we did exactly that. We bring to the table the capability to provide live full motion video to first responders on the ground during a natural disaster or any state side emergency. We can loiter for extensive amounts of time continually providing situational awareness to assist in saving lives," said Major Todd Linton, Director of Operations 163D RW/Formal Training Unit
Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Dutkiewicz, Commander 163D RW/Formal Training Unit, said, "What this exercise helped us establish was melding the capabilities of the Department Of Defense with the needs of civilian entities in times of a natural disaster or crisis. MQ-1 capabilities provide first responders instant ability to discern the needs of those they are trying to help."

Major Junk went on to say, "If we continue showing our civilian counterparts that time and time again we repeat a successful story, when a real crisis does occur we would have established relationships to carry out a rescue mission in the national airspace.
With the successful conclusion of Ardent Sentry 2012 both Defense and civil authorities were able to walk away with lessons and accomplishments.

Colonel Randall Ball, Commander 163D RW, said, "Our participation in Ardent Sentry 2012 demonstrated the capability to safely fly within the US National Airspace System and provide persistent Full Motion Video from Remotely Piloted Aircraft to Incident Commanders, First Responders and Interagency partners combating national disaster."



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