With four weeks of classroom training and six weeks of real-time flight instructions under their belts, the first 11 unmanned aerial vehicle system crews have graduated from formal training at Holloman AFB, N.M. Air Combat Command announced last summer that it wanted to begin UAV training at Holloman early this year even as the service conducted an environmental assessment that eventually would have Holloman replace Creech AFB, Nev., as its prime UAV operator training location. The New Mexico base’s first crews—11 pilots and 11 sensor operators—which began training on Feb. 2 have a background in a variety of aircraft, but they are now full-fledged MQ-9 Reaper operators. Lt. Col. James Merchant, commander of the 432nd Operations Group Det. 1, which is responsible for the UAV training at Holloman, said, “What we’re doing here is providing guys with the tools to be on par with the folks who have had a previous tactical background.” He added that, within the next month, these new operators would take part in operations in Afghanistan, where they “are going to provide on-call destruction of [enemy] resources—be it equipment, shelter, or themselves.” The Air Force just released an environmental impact analysis, finding no significant impediment to picking Holloman to eventually replace Creech for both MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 operator training. (49th Fighter Wing report)
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.