HANCOCK FIELD, N.Y. SYRACUSE, N.Y. (6/4/12) â€” The MQ-9 Reaper flight training school at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base has graduated its first series of active duty Air Force MQ-9 operators since the program was established in November 2011.
Ten active duty Air Force pilots and ten sensor operators completed the program at the MQ-9 Formal Training Unit â€” run by the New York Air National Guardâ€™s 174th Fighter Wing from February through May 2012.
The 174th FW is responsible for training all MQ-9 pilot/sensor operator teams in the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard, and allied air forces.
â€œWe are proud of training the next generation of MQ-9 aircrew from across the Air Force right here at Hancock Field,â€ said Air Force Col. Greg Semmel, commander of the 174th FW and Hancock Field installation commander. â€œThis mission is particularly important due to the ongoing impact that the MQ-9 has had on protecting the lives of American troops on the battlefield.â€
Airmen with the174th FW have also been training all MQ-9 maintenance technicians for the active Air Force, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard and allied nations since 2009.
About 80 airmen are trained by the unit each year to employ the MQ-9 and graduation from the course awards the aircrew with an initial qualification on the weapon system.
The initial qualification training lasts about three and a half months, and consists of about 100 hours of classroom academics, 40 hours of simulator instruction, and 30 hours of flight training. Upon completion of the FTU, the pilots and sensor operators return to their home-station for mission specific training to become combat ready aircrew.
The 174th FW maintains a launch and recovery facility at Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield at Fort Drum, New York, from which MQ-9 students fly training missions. During take-off the aircraft is under the control of experienced aircrew members. Once it reaches operating altitude a student pilot manning a ground based cockpit at Hancock Field takes command via satellite downlink control system.
While the student pilots are learning to fly the aircraft using different training scenarios the enlisted sensor operators are learning how to operate the sophisticated sensor equipment on the MQ-9 which allows both aircrew members to assist troops on the ground with information and precision weapons strikes.
Along with providing MQ-9 training for the Air Force, the 174th FW conducts MQ-9 operations over Afghanistan on a daily basis from a command facility at the base. Airmen assigned to the base also provide support for other Air Force and Air National Guard missions around the world and here at home.