USAF-RAF Reaper Maintainers Take Over at Balad

A joint Air Force-Royal Air Force aircraft maintenance unit from the 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Creech AFB, Nev., recently deployed to Joint Base Balad, Iraq, to sustain operations of the MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles assigned to the 46th Expeditionary Reconnaissance and Attack Squadron there. The AMU took over from contractors employed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, maker of the Reaper. They had been maintaining the platforms there since their introduction in Iraq in July. Earlier this year, airmen conducted their first blue-suit only mission with the Reaper at Creech. SSgt. Alice Moore, spokeswoman for Creech’s 432nd Wing, told the Daily Report yesterday that this is the first the Reaper AMU deployment either to Iraq or even Afghanistan, where MQ-9s have operated since September 2007. The unit melds airframe maintenance expertise with satellite communications system technical capability, said Capt. Antonio Camacho, the Reaper AMU officer in charge. “It’s a very unique program,” he said. The British members are fully embedded in the unit. “There’s no difference; it’s not, ‘I’m Royal Air Force, he’s US Air Force,” said RAF Chief Technician Gary Smith, NCO in charge of the AMU. “Because of that, we pass ideas to one another, and I think the unit’s far better for it,” he noted. Smith also said the Reaper maintainers function as “system managers” rather than aircraft-only managers since they must look after the entire Reaper system to ensure the capability functions properly. The Reaper system comprises the aircraft, satellite uplink, local ground control station, and the remote GCS at Creech. (Includes Balad report by SSgt. Don Branum)