Countdown to Reaper Operations

The New York Air National Guard’s 174th Fighter Wing at Hancock Field in Syracuse will begin MQ-9 Reaper combat air patrols already in November, although it will not shed its final F-16s until March 2010. The wing is the first ANG unit that will operate the MQ-9 armed unmanned aerial vehicle. It completed its last scheduled air and space expeditionary force rotation—a stint in Iraq—with its F-16s last June and has been converting to the Reaper mission since then. At full strength, the 174th will have two MQ-9s for maintenance training and 14 air vehicles for use in operational missions. Two of the latter will fly in the local area, while the others are expected to be used overseas in support of operations in Southwest Asia. Reaper operators from the wing will control their deployed aircraft from ground control stations in Syracuse via satellite communications links. The wing’s first MQ-9 arrived in January for use as a maintenance trainer. The wing will also begin conducting MQ-9 maintenance training starting this October for airmen across the active duty component as well as the Air Guard and Air Force Reserve. (Syracuse report by Capt. Anthony Bucci)