The US Air Force has announced that it has selected Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, as the preferred location to base a new MQ-9 Reaper group, including mission control elements.
Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona; Moody AFB, Georgia; Mountain Home AFB, Idaho; and Offutt AFB, Nebraska, were named as reasonable alternatives and will be considered as part of the environmental impact analysis process.
“Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance continues to be the number one most requested capability of combatant commanders and I believe adding additional RPA locations will help our efforts to retain experienced RPA operators that contribute to this vital mission,” said Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James.
The desire for additional locations for MQ-9 assignments was identified during surveys of officers and enlisted Airmen as part of Air Combat Command’s Culture and Process Improvement Program. CPIP is a series of initiatives designed to address challenges and stressors affecting the MQ-1B Predator and MQ-9 communities.
“Shaw AFB was selected because it was the best option to help us diversify assignment opportunities for personnel within the MQ-9 enterprise, provide increased opportunities for leadership from within the community, and provide flexibility to enhance integration with other organizations and capabilities,” James added.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein echoed those sentiments, noting “remotely piloted aircraft and associated intelligence operations are and will remain a vital component for the national security of the United States and our allies. Providing additional RPA basing locations can provide greater development and quality of life opportunities so we can provide combatant commanders with the best trained operators to perform this critical mission.”
The first Airmen assigned to the new group are expected to begin arriving there in fiscal year 2018 although no RPAs will be based at the location as a result of this action.
In addition to this action, the Air Force is also considering another location to host an MQ-9 wing that includes up to 24 MQ-9s, launch and recovery elements, a mission control element, a maintenance group and support personnel.