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May 12, 2011
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PERSONNEL from the Heron Re-
motely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) Rota-
tion 4 (Roto 4) deployed to Kandahar
Airfield in Afghanistan broke three re-
cords during March.
The tri-service detachment flew a
total of 475 hours, surpassing previ-
ous rotations' monthly flying hours
record by 82 hours.
Heron Roto 4 CO WGCDR Greg
Wells said the two other records were
achieved by an individual within the
unit and by a team effort.
"One of our payload operators,
FSGT Sean McClure, surpassed the
RECORD-breaker FSGT Sean Mc-
Clure is serving on back-to-back
"I started working on Heron
Roto 3 and stayed on as one of the
members who was due to come
with Roto 4 couldn't deploy," FSGT
McClure said. "Usually a rotation
lasts between four to five months,
but I'll be here for nearly eight."
As a payload operator, he con-
trols Heron's sensors.
"I use the Heron's cameras,
working with the imagery analysts to
find things of interest on the ground.
"Supporting the guys on the
ground would have to be the best part
of the job and it can lead to saving
lives. We've seen people planting
IEDs in the ground, have seen spot-
ters at future target sites and were
able to warn our soldiers on the
ground that they were there."
Even though he's spent almost a
year in Afghanistan he has enjoyed
the unique experience.
"I'd do it all again if I had the
opportunity," he said."This rotation
has a great bunch of people and they
took me in as a part of their family."
500 hours (and counting) of saving lives
record of 500 flight hours and we flew
a total of 22 hours for one mission --
three more hours than our previous
record," WGCDR Wells said.
"In the 22-hour mission we were
supporting Australian troops on the
ground and were asked to extend
our flight time to continue providing
assistance to them.
"This [monthly milestone] exceeds
the efforts of previous Heron rota-
tions and means we have reached a
point where we are able to achieve a
significant amount of time on station
providing an all-important 'eye in the
sky' for our troops."
WGCDR Wells said the success of
TEAM EFFORT: Left, SQNLDR Michael Nygh conducts a mission from his desk in the Heron Intelligence Coordination
Centre in Kandahar; above, WOFF Trevor Dix pushes an RPA back into a hangar after completing a mission; above
right, Heron Roto 4 CO WGCDR Greg Wells.
Photos: SGT William Guthrie
tumble the Heron was a combination of both
smart technology and people.
"A typical Heron mission involves
a lot of work from a very small team
of specialists, ranging from engineers
to intelligence officers, imagery ana-
lysts and pilots," he said.
"One of the big advantages of
Heron is that it can stay airborne for
a very long time. We deliver enhanced
situational awareness to our soldiers,
which is vital in helping them achieve
their mission on the ground."
The Heron team comprises 28
Australian and New Zealand Defence
Force personnel and operates three
Dubbed 'Bluey' by the
Australians, the Heron can fly for up
to 24 hours and is a key asset in the
conduct of intelligence, surveillance
and reconnaissance missions in the
Afghanistan theatre of operations.
It helps to protect Australian and
coalition forces, as well as Afghan
civilians, from insurgent activity,
including the laying of improvised
Information collected by the
Heron is analysed and processed in
real time. This means the commander
has the benefit of having eyes on a tar-
get to build a more accurate picture of
RPAs are operated from a ground
base by trained pilots and can with-
stand a range of weather conditions.
See Page 22 for more on the Heron.
Sean McClure who
broke the record for the
number of flight hours.
Photo: SGT Andrew
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