SHAW AFB, S.C. --- MQ-9 Reaper support Airmen recently began arriving at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, in line with Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson’s Jan. 10 announcement that the base will be home to a new MQ-9 group.
This comes less than one year after Shaw AFB was identified as the preferred location to expand the remotely piloted aircraft enterprise after the completion of suitability studies. The studies evaluated factors including available space, community support and environmental impact.
More than 400 Airmen are expected to be assigned to the new group, said Lt. Col David, 432nd Operations Group Det. 1 commander.
These Airmen will be responsible for conducting operations with aircraft at different locations, including those deployed overseas.
“The way we operate the aircraft from here at Shaw will be entirely remote,” said David. “We connect to them by different means depending on what phase of flight they’re in. For the take-off and landing phase, that’s conducted downrange via direct links with the aircraft. For the type of (combat) operations we do here, we will connect to them via satellite.”
Due to the need to support deployed missions in real-time, MQ-9 Reaper aircrew and support Airmen maintain operations all day, every day. These Airmen have a mission to achieve combatant commanders’ objectives by executing dominant persistent attack and reconnaissance.
This non-stop pace has continued to grow since the first MQ-9 Reaper was introduced in 2007, said Lt. Col. Andre, 432nd OG Det. 1 director of operations.
With constant availability and communication, MQ-9 Reaper aircrew are able to support a variety of missions.
“We’re flying these as attack platforms with some phenomenal (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) capabilities and, in different campaigns or in different scenarios, the balance of attack and ISR shifts,” said David. “What’s really amazing about the MQ-9 Reaper is that its missions can shift over the course of a sortie, minute by minute.”
Once all Airmen are in place, the group will consist of MQ-9 Reaper pilots, sensor operators, intelligence specialists, squadron aircrew records teams and other support staff.
As new Team Shaw members begin their journey at Shaw and integrate into the local community, they are also bringing a unique mission and adding to the installation’s environment. Although they may not be assigned to the 20th Fighter Wing, their support downrange aids the Air Force’s overall mission to fly, fight and win.