An MQ-9 Reaper assigned to the New York Air National Guard’s 174th Attack Wing in Syracuse crashed into Lake Ontario in New York on Nov. 12, 2013, following a “series of system malfunctions,” according to a July 1 release. The Accident Investigation Board found “by clear and convincing evidence” that the mishap aircraft’s global positioning system and inertial navigation system failed “in conjunction with a transfer of invalid attitude data” to the mishap aircraft’s autopilot system. “Without valid data, the [Reaper] could not discern its attitude and became uncontrollable,” states the executive summary of the AIB report. A mission control element crew from Hancock Field ANGB, N.Y., initiated “the appropriate emergency checklist” and informed the launch recovery element aircrew of the situation, states the July 1 release. However, the Reaper lost its link with the crew as it was in the process of turning the aircraft around. Consequently, the aircraft “began to fly its pre-programmed contingency return-to-base flightpath on its own,” allowing it to safely avoid populated areas, states the release. The MQ-9 became inverted after it attempted an autopilot right turn, resulting in “an unrecoverable flat spin,” states the release. The aircraft, which was valued at $10.6 million, was destroyed on impact.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.