Those mystery military drones at Mt. Washington become more mysterious
Posted by David Brooks | Friday, June 15, 2012
This is the draft of a Telegraph story that will run tomorrow - but you can see it now!
The mystery of the military drone aircraft that may or may not be associated with Mount Washington got murkier on Friday, when the agency that was allegedly responsible for the craft denied any role.
“U.S. Special Operations Command does not have a UAS/UAV base in Mt. Washington,” wrote Ken McGraw, deputy public affairs officer for the agency, in response to a query about the issue. The acronyms stand for unmanned aerial system or vehicle, often called “drones.”
The GraniteGeek blog and The Telegraph reported Thursday that presentations given by Department of Defense and Air Force officials in recent years have said that small, hand-launched drone aircraft are based at “Mt Washington,” with no more details about location, and are overseen by Special Operations Command, or SOCOM.
This was the only military drone establishment in New England listed in the two separate presentations.
With Special Operations denying any role, it remains unclear what, if anything, if meant by those reports. No details were given other than the claim of SOCOM oversight and the statement that it involved only Wasp and Raven drones, tiny flying craft that weight just a few pounds and are used for reconnaissance by Army units.
Calls to the Air Force Safety Branch and to the Unmanned Warfare section of the Department of Defense – the two departments that included the Mt. Washington location in presentations – have not been returned. Queries to Gov. Lynch’s office and U.S. Rep. Bass’ office were also not returned.
Ken Rancourt, director of summit operations for the Mount Washington Observatory, said Friday he didn’t know of any military drones. The only unmanned aircraft he knew around the mountain involved a one-time attempt by Dartmouth College graduate students to fly a remote-controlled aircraft over the Cog railway to measure vertical temperature profiles.
“Sometimes company test equipment here that needs to operate at higher elevations,” Rancourt said.
If the military wanted to do testing of unmanned aircraft, he said, “I’d like to make the facility available to them for them.”
Small, remotely controlled aircraft using cameras or infrared devices that detect heat have been proposed as an aid in search-and-rescue missions in the White Mountains, but none currently operate.
In his email, McGraw of Special Operations wrote, “For your information, US Special Operations Command does not issue the Raven or Wasp. Those two UAVs are Army pieces of equipment. The Army issues what are called service-common pieces of equipment - like the Raven and the Wasp - to Army special operations units, just like they issue them to conventional Army units.”