Airmen and Guardians from various career fields across the 49th Wing, Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, participated in the second iteration of exercise Agile Reaper April 7-26. Personnel from the 452nd Air Mobility Wing, March Air Reserve Base, California, 27th Special Operations Wing, Cannon AFB, New Mexico, and the 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing, Creech AFB, Nevada, participated in the exercise. During the routine training exercise, a small contingency of Airmen and assets forward-deployed to San Clemente Island, California. Operations from NAS Point Mugu displayed the resiliency and rapidly mobilizing force of Airmen and assets, signaling a mission success. Throughout the exercise, Airmen practiced the warfighting and flexible movement capabilities of the MQ-9 and its controlling station.
“Agile Reaper is about beating adversary targeting cycles as we get MQ-9s into any location, rapidly relaunch, and create effects, before the enemy detects and targets us. We’re putting penetrating, persistent, multi-role aircraft over the battlespace where least expected. This provides reduced-risk, low-cost options to our leaders that present asymmetries to potential adversaries,” said Lt. Col. Brian Davis, 29th Attack Squadron commander.
“This is the first time the MQ-9 has ever island hopped in the Department of Defense” said Maj. Steven Massara, 49th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander. “We will continue to make the future exercises more and more challenging for our maintainers and operators, but we look forward to the challenge.”
The 49th Wing is a remotely piloted vehicle wing of the United States Air Force. It is assigned to Nineteenth Air Force, Air Education and Training Command. It is stationed at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. The wing has fought during the Korean War, Vietnam War, Operation Desert Storm and NATO-led Operation Allied Force over Kosovo.
The wing provides combat-ready Airmen training MQ-9 Reaper pilots and sensor operators. The 49th Operations Group (49 OG) is the operational flying component of the United States Air Force 49th Wing. It deploys combat-ready and mission-support forces supporting Air Expeditionary Force operations, peacetime contingencies; provides host base support to over 4,600 personnel, including hosting the 54th Fighter Group’s F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot training mission, the 96th Test Group’s high-speed test track mission, and the German Air Force Flying Training Unit.
The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper (sometimes called Predator B) is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capable of remotely controlled or autonomous flight operations developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) primarily for the United States Air Force (USAF). The MQ-9 and other UAVs are referred to as Remotely Piloted Vehicles/Aircraft (RPV/RPA) by the USAF to indicate their human ground controllers. The USAF operated 195 MQ-9 Reapers as of September 2016, and plans to keep the MQ-9 in service into the 2030s. With a 66 ft (20 m) wingspan, and a maximum payload of 3,800 lb (1,700 kg), the MQ-9 can be armed with a variety of weaponry, including Hellfire missiles and 500 lb (230 kg) laser-guided bomb units. Endurance is 30 hours when conducting ISR missions, which decreases to 23 hours if it is carrying a full weapons load. The MQ-9 is the first hunter-killer UAV designed for long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance.