Historic first: MQ-9 Reaper drone lands at Springfield air base

Ohio Air National Guard unit working with airmen from Mississippi and California Air National Guard.

A MQ-9 “Reaper” intelligence drone touched down at the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport on Tuesday, marking the first time the 178th Wing has housed the aircraft, and a first for supporting the aircraft out of Springfield’s airport.

Airmen assigned to the Ohio Air National Guard’s 178th Wing will support the Exercise Advanced Wrath from March 11 to March 21, providing a “proof-of-concept opportunity,” Air National Guard officials said in a release. The MQ-9 will be temporarily stationed at the 178th for the duration of the exercise, taking off and landing from the wing’s home station.

Operating the MQ-9 is a significant milestone for the wing because it marks the revival of local flight operations at Springfield Air National Guard Base, and the authorizations and relationships necessary to participate in national airspace, said Col. Paul Kavanaugh, 178th Wing Operations Group Commander.

“Our goal is to not only sustain but also expand this initiative by hosting MQ-9s from other states,” Kavanaugh said. “This milestone, the first of its kind in Ohio, provides a unique chance for National Guard airmen from California, Mississippi and Ohio to collaborate. The focus is on enhancing their ability to execute missions overseas and support various Department of Defense components.”

The basic crew consists of a rated pilot to control the aircraft and command the mission, and an enlisted aircrew member to operate sensors and guide weapons. The Operations Group will be flying the MQ-9.

“This is a historic event for the 178th Wing,” said Col. Kent Kazmaier, commander of the 178th Wing. “Our Wing and our aircrews have not had a military aircraft physically operate from our installation, operated by our very own aircrews, since the last F-16 left over 12 years ago. It provides our Airmen with a greater sense of duty … a greater sense of pride to witness the MQ-9 operate from our airfield.”

The Reaper is used primarily in intelligence collection, as well as strikes, coordination and reconnaissance against high-value, fleeting and time-sensitive targets, per the Air Force’s fact sheet on the craft. The remotely piloted drone can also perform close air support, combat search and rescue, precision strike, convoy and raid overwatch, route clearance, target development, and terminal air guidance.

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