Finding the Reaper’s New Home

The Air Force released the list of candidate bases for two new MQ-9 Reaper operating locations Thursday. Potential hosts for a full wing of 24 aircraft, “a launch and recovery element and a mission support element, as well as a maintenance group and operations support airmen include: Eglin AFB, Fla.; Tyndall AFB, Fla.; Vandenberg AFB, Calif., and Shaw AFB, S.C., according to a release. The Air Force also selected Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz.; Moody AFB, Ga; Mountain Home AFB, Idaho; Offutt AFB, Neb.; and Shaw AFB, S.C., as potential locations for an operations group with mission control elements but no aircraft. Each location already houses an Active Duty flying wing, a group that performs at least one core RPA mission, or is co-located with an Active Duty distributed ground system, states the release. Air Combat Command will perform site surveys at the eight bases before final decisions are made as early as this winter. The move to expand RPA basing—the latest in the service’s “get well” program for the RPA enterprise—is meant to diversify assignment opportunities, increase promotion chances from within the community, and enhance integration with other groups, according to the release. In August, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said the service will approve an increased $35,000 retention bonus for pilots who agree to stay on at the end of their Active Duty commitment, up from the $25,000 currently offered. (See also: Don’t Fear the Reaper from the February issue of Air Force Magazine.)