26 WPS integrates with US Navy SUSTEX to show Reaper capabilities

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NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — The MQ-9 Reaper’s persistence, sensors, weapons and communication capabilities make it ideal for naval operations.
To demonstrate, the MQ-9’s maritime prowess is a force multiplier, and in line with the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center commander’s priority to maximize testing, tactics and training to enhance total force integration of air, space and cyberspace.
The U.S. Air Force Weapons School’s 26th Weapons Squadron recently integrated with the U.S. Navy’s Carrier Strike Group Three and Carrier Air Wing Nine off the coast of San Diego, California, during a U.S. Navy sustainment exercise (SUSTEX).
Driven by the USAFWS mission to continually integrate and provide realistic training, the SUSTEX proved an invaluable opportunity for U.S. Navy and Air Force personnel, especially the 26th WPS students, to exchange tactics, plan jointly, observe carrier operations, and consider MQ-9 integration aspects. The 26th WPS and the U.S. Navy units also worked out future agreements for integrated operations and fast attack craft (FAC) and fast inland attack craft (FIAC) tactics.
The 26th WPS plans to integrate the MQ-9 and its students against the FAC/FIAC threat and during special operations forces interdictions.
“This was a phenomenal opportunity to integrate in the joint environment while learning the intricacies and planning considerations of carrier operations,” Lt. Col. Bryan Callahan, commander of the 26th WPS, explained.
An additional goal of the integration is to test the future MQ-9 maritime radar, using new software for current hardware that enables the MQ-9 to rapidly find, fix and track moving surface contacts. This capability marks a monumental leap in capability, uniquely suited to aid the U.S. Navy and cement the MQ-9 in the maritime environment.
General Atomics provided its Kingair aircraft equipped with the MQ-9 radar and future software, flying three days in support of the Carrier Support Group. This support exposed the 26th WPS commander, instructors and students to tactics and employment of the radar. This experience will mold future tactics and capture best practices.
As part of the USAFWS and 57th Wing, whose mission is to provide advanced, relevant and realistic training focused on ensuring dominance in air, space and cyberspace, the 26th WPS is working to provide combatant commanders with weapons officers who can effectively integrate in the naval environment, filling capability gaps, overflying deck cycles and enabling persistent multirole effects. The lessons learned from this integration with the U.S. Navy are a benchmark for future iterations.
The 26th WPS is grateful to all who made this first-ever opportunity possible. In particular, the USS Stennis and Stockdale warships hosted a 26th WPS liaison officer aboard ship for five days while underway. In addition, Rocky Knopp, Jason Johnson and Jeffrey Laue of General Atomics went above and beyond—voluntarily flying General Atomics aircraft in support of the SUSTEX integration missions—to show the U.S. Navy and the 26th WPS what the MQ-9 brings to the maritime environment.
The 26th WPS is poised to lead and enable the combat force through improved equipment, while exploring new mission domains, and looks forward to continued joint integration.

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