“If you can play Xbox, you can fly a Raven”


A pair of military vehicles rolled into a square of land used by the Iraq army to conduct weapons qualifications, at Camp Fallujah, Iraq. Paratroopers jump out, walk into the middle of the square and begin putting together a toy like airplane, setting up an antenna and powering up a computer. They work as a team, training together once a week over the previous months.

The airplane is a Raven one of the smallest unmanned aircraft in the US Army. It weighs only 4 pounds, 8 ounces, and has a 4-foot-3-inch wingspan and is 3 feet, 7 inches long. The Raven is used for aerial reconnaissance when larger unmanned aircraft are unavailable, said Maj. Paul Grant the operations officer for 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, of the 82nd Airborne Division’s, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade.

Spc. Cameron Simpson, an infantryman with D Company, 1-325th, was manning the controls on the ground, using a screen with two toggles on either side to control the airplane. “If you can play Xbox, you can fly a Raven,” said Spc. Benjamin Halbert, an infantryman with D Company, 1-325th.

The Raven can fit into a rucksack and is meant to be carried on patrol with the soldiers. It features real time surveillance capabilities. The camera can be switched out for use at night. This Raven is a compact tool to enhance situational awareness of a team of soldiers on the battlefield. These soldiers went through three weeks of training at Fort Benning, Ga., last January. “The training was good at the school,” said Clark. “The instructors provided ample time to work with the equipment so that we became proficient on the Raven.”

The soldiers regularly train with equipment such as the Raven to hone their skills and stay flexible so they are prepared for any mission. The paratroopers will come out to Camp Fallujah once a week to train on the equipment, said Grant. “The intent is to maintain proficiency and the capability,” he said.