Guardsmen Flying Reapers in Combat

As of Tuesday, airmen of the New York Air National Guard’s 174th Fighter Wing at Hancock Field ANGB in Syracuse have entered steady-state operations flying MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft in support of operations in Afghanistan. According to a wing release, the focus of these missions is “primarily on providing overwatch of American soldiers and marines on the ground.” The New York Air Guardsmen control the Reapers over Afghanistan from ground stations in Syracuse, sending commands to the aircraft in theater through satellite networks. The New York wing is the first Air Guard unit to operate MQ-9s, having shed its F-16 flying mission in June 2008 per BRAC 2005. It also opened the Air Force’s sole MQ-9 maintenance schoolhouse in October.