An MQ-9 Reaper assigned to the 26th Weapons Squadron at Nellis AFB, Nev., successfully struck a target in the Gulf of Mexico on March 17, marking the first time the Reaper was successfully used to interdict sea-going targets in a joint exercise?, Weapons School officials announced last week. “For our [RPA] community it’s a big step forward, it’s a mission set we had looked at for a long time, and training opportunities over water are not very prevalent [at Nellis],” said Capt. Timothy Ford, the 26th WPS flight commander. During the joint exercise, Reaper crews also integrated with other aircraft including A-10s, F-16s, and the F-35A. In addition to hitting the maritime target, Reaper crews coordinated attacks with the F-35 for the first time, and built collaboration and deconfliction skills, said Capt. Ryan Cross, a training officer with the 26th WPS. Airmen with the 26th WPS are collaborating to improve tactics in other mission sets at the Weapons School as well, to include using the MQ-9 in strike and close air support scenarios.
After a long period in which munitions were almost an afterthought and sacrificed to pay for other priorities, the Air Force needs to focus on them in order to have the right “package” of capabilities for future conflicts, Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. said June 7.