The U.S. Air National Guard Air Force Reserve Command Test Center (AATC) recently took part in Valiant Shield 2022, a 12-day joint training exercise aimed at bolstering the collaborative ability of U.S. Military forces by conducting integrated operations with the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps. The AATC MQ-9 Test Detachment was supported by the 174th Attack Wing with Block 5 MQ-9 aircraft. The 556th Test and Evaluation squadron supported with a block 30 Ground Control Station, while test flights were flown out of Creech AFB using Air Combat Command (ACC), Air National Guard (ANG) and Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) aircrew.
During the exercise, AATC led a successful test of the new AGM-114 R-4 long range hellfire missile and the associated weaponeering software. The modified Hellfire missile can fly roughly three times as far as previous versions and resulted in the longest Hellfire shot taken to date. \The test demonstrated the AGM-114 R-4’s ability to double the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper (sometimes called Predator B)’s standoff range, giving the ability to engage threats while maintaining a safe distance out of the threats ability to counter-strike, which is crucial to survivability in a contested environment.
The AGM-114 Hellfire is an air-to-ground missile (AGM) first developed for anti-armor use, later developed for precision drone strikes against other target types, especially high-value targets. It was originally developed under the name Heliborne laser, fire-and-forget missile, which led to the colloquial name “Hellfire” ultimately becoming the missile’s formal name. It has a multi-mission, multi-target precision-strike ability and can be launched from multiple air, sea, and ground platforms, including the Reaper drone. The AGM-114 R-4 ill replace the HELLFIRE K2A and supplement the existing HELLFIRE R2 currently fielded by the U,S. Air Force.
Valiant Shield 2022 was a success thanks to the combined efforts of all military branches and a demonstration of the lethality of the U.S. Military’s integrated operations. The U.S. Air National Guard Air Force Reserve Command Test Center (AATC) is a Major Command (MAJCOM) Operational Test Organization chartered to test aircraft modernization efforts and the ARC’s Battlefield Airman Enterprise which includes Intelligence, Surveillance, & Reconnaissance, Cyber, Space, and all other Combined Test Forces. The AATC is a unit of the Air National Guard, stationed at Tucson Air National Guard Base, Arizona.