Edwards AFB hosts 163rd Attack Wing MQ-9

In an unprecedented move towards Gen. CQ Brown’s charge to “Accelerate Change or Lose,” the 163rd Attack Wing executed their first ever MQ-9 Agile Combat Employment to a Forward Operating Site, flying from March Air Reserve Base to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., May 4, 2022.

May 4, 2022, marked a historic day for the 163rd Attack Wing when our Multi-Capable Airmen launched, recovered, rearmed and returned to home station, blazing the trail for the MQ-9 enterprise. Helping the 163rd ATKW achieve this Agile Combat Employment goal was the 160th Attack Squadron and the 492nd Attack Squadron. The 163rd Attack Wing successfully performed an Automatic Takeoff and Landing Capability from March Air Reserve Base, Calif., to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and back. (Air Force photograph by Master Sgt. Neil Bellecer)

The groundbreaking sortie included the use of the MQ-9’s Automatic Takeoff and Landing Capability and showcased the first employment of Multi-Capable Airmen to rapidly recover, refuel, and rearm the MQ-9 at the forward site with a manning and equipment footprint significantly smaller than a typical Launch and Recovery Element. For the 163rd, ACE and MCA take specific Airmen and enables them to learn and execute everything about the mission making a more cohesive team. This shows the whole Airmen concept on so many levels.

“It’s the next step in evolving our platform to meet the evolving global threat environment,” said Maj Shanna, 160th Attack Squadron Assistant Director of Operations. “We are no longer confined to operating out of large established bases ñ now we can move and relocate as the mission requires.”

Almost 100 years ago, the father of our Modern U.S. Air Force, Gen. Henry H. “Hap” Arnold predicted, “The next war may be fought by airplanes with no men in them at all. Take everything you’ve learned about aviation in war throw it out of the window, and let’s go to work on tomorrow’s aviation. It will be different from anything the world has ever seen.”

Maj. Greg, the 160th ATKS Director of Operations added, “This capability enables us to meet expeditionary demands of federal missions, but also enhances our ability to quickly support the governor’s taskings in support of the state of California. This is a team effort across the wing to make today’s sortie a success. The first-ever flight to a FOS was preceded by months of developing techniques and procedures to enable the safe execution of the flight. Today’s sortie helps the MQ-9 enterprise bridge from regional support to national support, no longer tethered to a single main base.”

Arnold’s bold statement is the 163rd’s mantra.

To date, the 163rd ATKW is poised to utilize Auto Takeoff and Auto Landing to prove that ACE can successfully be incorporated in the mission. Bringing to bear innovative tactics, techniques and procedures, the 163rd is once again trailblazing the enterprise for future warfighters.

“The 163rd is leading the way when it comes to innovation, not just on the flight line, but also in the future of what the U.S. Air Force is going to be,” said MCA Lead Master Sgt. Timothy. “Ultimately, the goal is for our MCA Team of maintainers/refuelers/weapons loaders to forward deploy and meet the MQ-9’s expeditionary needs and rejoin the fight. We have unlocked the key to refueling and rearming an MQ-9 so we can safely and expediently compete in the future fight. This is a bigger part of the mission — it contributes to something bigger which means our Airmen need to ensure they know their jobs more so now, than ever before.”

An MQ-9 Reaper from the 163rrd Attack Wing, takes off from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., May 4, 2022. The aircraft conducted an Agile Combat Employment (ACE) to a Forward Operating Site, flying from March Air Reserve Base to Edwards Air Force Base. (Air Force photograph by Madeline Guadarrama)

Since Arnold’s prediction over 100 years ago, the 163rd Attack Wing was the first Air National Guard unit to take on a Remotely Piloted Aircraft, the first to become a fully functional ANG Flying Training Unit, the first to integrate Active Duty Aircrew/Maintainers from an Air Education and Training Command active associate unit, and now the first ANG unit to execute a sortie in the ACE construct to a FOS utilizing the MQ-9’s ATLC features and MCA teams.

After the successful mission, Maj. Shanna added, “Now, the 163rd ATKW has an extremely small footprint with streamlined processes and the ability to forward operate quickly and efficiently. Like any other aviation asset in our U.S. Air Force inventory, the MQ-9 Reaper is accelerating change and the 163d ATKW again leads the way.”

Since the inception of the Air Force, our airmen have embodied the concept of innovation. The DNA set forth by Gen Hap Arnold is imbued in everything we do. General Brown pushes that rich tradition and legacy, challenging our airmen to accelerate change. The 163rd Attack Wing has and will continue to accelerate that change ensuring that we never lose.

An MQ-9 Reaper from the 163rrd Attack Wing, lands at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., May 4, 2022. The aircraft conducted an Agile Combat Employment (ACE) to a Forward Operating Site (FOS), flying from March Air Reserve Base to Edwards Air Force Base. (Air Force photograph by Madeline Guadarrama)
Airmen from the 163rd Attack Wing, out of March Air Reserve Base, Calif., load inert training weapons to an MQ-9 Reaper at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., May 4 ,2022. The aircraft conducted an Agile Combat Employment (ACE) to a Forward Operating Site (FOS), flying from March Air Reserve Base to Edwards Air Force Base. (Air Force photograph by Giancarlo Casem)
Airmen from the 163rd Attack Wing, out of March Air Reserve Base, load inert training weapons to an MQ-9 Reaper at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., May 4, 2022. (Air Force photograph by Giancarlo Casem)
An MQ-9 Reaper from the 163rd Attack Wing, taxis at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., May 4, 2022. (Air Force photograph by Giancarlo Casem)

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