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Daniel Lloyd, Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, prepares the unmanned air system Stalker XE for a flight during exercise Steel Knight aboard Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., Nov.28, 2017. The Combat Center invited Lockheed Martin to participate in exercise Steel Knight to develop teaming tactics, techniques and procedures with manned and unmanned air systems.(Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Devin Andrews)

Photo by Cpl. Devin Andrews

'Eye in the sky' during Steel Knight

16 Jan 2018 | Cpl. Devin Andrews Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

Lockheed Martin Skunk Works arrived aboard the Combat Center, Nov. 27 through Dec. 1, 2017 in support of 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment and 1st Marine Division during exercise Steel Knight. Lockheed Martin provided the Stalker XE, an unmanned air system to assist in providing information to the ground units.

The training exercise consists of a combined arms live-fire exercise that integrates air and ground assets to complete a wide range of military operations to prepare 1st MarDiv for deployment as the ground combat element of a Marine Air Ground Task Force.

The UAS Stalker XE is capable of assisting ground units with spotting targets, providing grid locations, basic intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and spotting vehicle movements with its video technology. Using the drone allows ground units to better conduct their exercises with more information.

“MAGTFTC invited Lockheed Martin to participate in exercise Steel Knight to demonstrate the Stalker XE’s capabilities,” said Maj. Mike Marron, future operations officer, Directorate of Training, MAGTF, MCAGCC. “The intent was to develop manned and unmanned teaming tactics, techniques and procedures by allowing 1st MarDiv’s Marines to utilize a platform currently used by Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command Marines.”

The Stalker XE is 24 pounds with a wing span of 12 feet. The device offers a longer and faster endurance than any other drone, operating up to eight hours- worth of flight time with minimal additional luggage. It can also operate with a two man crew, rather than a larger crew that larger drones require while being able to conduct all the same functions of the USMC Program of Record RQ-21A.

Ground units benefit from the Stalker XE’s functions because it provides a bird’s eye perspective of terrain not yet covered, as well as the convoy movement. With the sensors attached, it can calculate target information independently so additional air support does not have to get called in. In addition the device is quiet, so it will not compromise the position of the troops.

“The Marines seemed to like working with the Stalker,” Marron said. “They were excited about the capabilities and performance in challenging conditions, such as high winds and rugged terrain, as well as the quality of the video delivered to forward operators.”

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms