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  • This map is included in a 2010 presentation about Unmanned Aircraft Systems given by a director at the Unmanned Warfare office of the Department of Defense.
  • This map from a June 2011 US Air Force presentation lists "Mt. Washington" as a base for Wasp and Raven drones, or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), that are overseen by Special Operations Command, or SOCOM.
Thursday, June 21, 2012

Pentagon: Reports of military drones near Mt. Washington referred to 2009 tests

The mystery of reported use of military drones at Mount Washington, raised last week by The Telegraph and GraniteGeek blog, has been solved: It refers to two Navy training sessions in 2009.

“Special operations often conduct training off of military bases. It adds to the realism,” said Army Lt. Col. James Gregory, Pentagon spokesman.

The training by Navy special operations units using Raven and Wasp remotely piloted aircraft, so small they are launched by land, was done in 2009, from March 11 to June 28 and again Aug. 17 to Sept. 11.

No details were released about the units involved or the exact location of the tests.

“They called it the Mount Washington training site,” Gregory said. “In part, the location was chosen because it was away from regular air traffic.”

Handling Raven and Wasp aircraft can be difficult near mountainous terrain where winds are erratic, which may explain the attraction of the Mount Washington Valley as a training location.

News of the usage of drone aircraft surfaced last week when a group called Public Inquiry released unclassified briefings from the Air Force Safety Branch and the Unmanned Warfare section of the Department of Defense, both of which included maps of drone bases and locations around the country.

The only site in New England was listed just as “Mount Washington,” indicated that Raven and Waste drones had been used. The overseeing agency was listed as Special Operations Command, or SOCOM.

When GraniteGeek and The Telegraph attempted to find out more last week, they reached a dead end, except for a comment from SOCOM that it wasn’t that group, but that Raven and Wasp drones are typically issued to Army units in Afghanistan.

That led to calls to the Army National Guard and eventually to Gregory.

A Wasp drone can weigh less than a pound, so small they can be launched by a slingshot, while the Raven usually weighs around 4-6 pounds and can be launched by hand.

Both are powered by electric motors and, according to publicly released information, are used for reconnaissance, carrying cameras or other recording gear. The Raven, in particular, has had extensive use in Iraq and Afghanistan wars, since it can fly as high as 15,000 feet above sea level at speeds of 30-60 mph.

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or dbrooks@nashuatelegraph.com. Follow Brooks’ blog on Twitter (@GraniteGeek).