Lasting Partnership

The Air National Guard should remain in the unmanned aircraft systems business, says Col. Bob Becklund, chairman of the Air Force’s UAS weapons system council and commander of the 119th Wing in Fargo, N.D., one of the Air Guard’s four MQ-1 Predator units. Despite the challenges of learning the unmanned aerial vehicle technology, along with the cultural changes associated with operating them over Afghanistan and Iraq while sitting at control consoles back in the United States, UAVs represent “the way of the future,” says Becklund. Already the four Air Guard units provide a total of eight continuous combat air patrols of Predators in Southwest Asia, almost one quarter of the Air Force’s total. And this fall, the first Air Guard MQ-9 Reaper unit, the New York ANG’s 174th Fighter Wing at Hancock Field in Syracuse, will be operational. (NGB report by Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke)