Niagara Airmen Fly First Solo MQ-9 CAP

The New York Air National Guard’s 107th Airlift Wing flew its first unassisted MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft combat air patrol in support of overseas operations last month, officials announced on Oct. 3. Unit RPA pilots and sensor operators flew three CAPs from a ground control station at Ellsworth AFB, S.D., since the 107th AW’s facilities at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station are still under construction, according to the unit. “We are 16 months into our three-year conversion and now doing combat operations,” 107th AW Commander Col. Robert Kilgore in a release. A total of 23 airmen deployed to Ellsworth for the three-day mission and “everyone hit the ground running, supporting coalition forces with zero degradation to mission execution,” added 107th Operations Group Commander Lt. Col. Gary Charlton. The wing flew its final C-130 sortie last September and has logged some 2,000 RPA flying hours since then. The unit plans to reach initial operational capability and begin flying from Niagara, near Buffalo, in 2017. New York’s 174th Attack Wing near Syracuse also operates the MQ-9.