Military Feature: Inaugural crew completes Boeing program

Mike Wood, a ScanEagle instructor, prepares the ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicle for launch at the Melrose Bombing Range. (File photo)

CNJ staff

The Boeing Co. has graduated its first U.S. military ScanEagle crews from its Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Training Center in Clovis, according to a company press release.

The seven graduates have been assigned to the U.S. Air Force 820th Security Forces Group at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Graduates include three operators, two maintainers, a mission commander and a sensor operator, the release said.

“My team and I look forward … to (determining) the best tactics for integrating ScanEagle into the mission of protecting Air Force people in a hostile environment,” Lt. Ben Worley of the 820th Security Forces Group said.

Curry County has been a home for ScanEagle training since July 2006.

Civilians and military students are trained to operate and maintain the unmanned aerial vehicles at Clovis Community College. About 20 miles away, they practice using the drones at the Melrose Bombing Range.

Currently, 12 non-military students are enrolled in the Boeing ScanEagle training program at CCC, according to Boeing spokesperson Stacey Ritter.

The ScanEagle unmanned aerial system, developed in partnership with Insitu Inc. of Bingen, Wash., has logged more than 30,000 combat flight hours supporting U.S. Navy and Marine Corps operations over the last two years, the release said.

The Air Force graduates of the Clovis program will be the first military personnel to directly control the ScanEagle system.

“The students are leaving the training with the skills and confidence to implement a viable force protection capability for the Air Force,” said Marshall Formby, director of training at the Boeing UAV Training Center. “(They) have completed an intensive education in systems operation, aerodynamics, crew resource management, maintenance and tactics.”

The ScanEagle system provides the user with the capability to observe targets from a safe distance and provide real-time information to the operator. The system was originally developed to give commercial fishing fleets an affordable alternative to helicopters in searching for schools of fish.