The 188th Wing, at Ebbing ANGB, Ark., has activated a remotely piloted aircraft unit that will pioneer the consolidation of intelligence gathering, analysis, and targeting missions. “We are unique in so many ways, but particularly in combining the remotely piloted aircraft and distributed ground station operations under one roof,” said Col. Bobbi Doorenbos, 188th Wing commander, in a release. “This is a one-of-a-kind operation that we believe will someday become the standard in operations.” The 188th Operations Group can fly the MQ-9 Reaper anywhere in the world from its home in Fort Smith, Ark., gathering intelligence that analysts working in the wing directly process in “near real-time” to evaluate potential targets. This structure will allow the 188th to deliver accurate information more quickly to battlefield managers. While the wing is currently operational, it is still seeking to hire more than 150 airmen in fields such as cyber and information technology, intelligence analysis, MQ-9 pilots, sensor operators, heavy equipment operators, security forces, and firefighters to help the unit reach full capacity. The activation, which took place in late September, marks the completion of the wing’s conversion from flying A-10s, states the release.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.