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AF narrows locations considered for basing new RPA units

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- The Air Force has selected candidate bases for a potential new MQ-9 Reaper wing with units at up to two locations.

For the first location, the Air Force identified Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona; Moody AFB, Georgia; Mountain Home AFB, Idaho; Offutt AFB, Nebraska; and Shaw AFB, South Carolina, as candidate bases to potentially host an operations group with mission control elements.

These locations currently have an active-duty flying wing or group that performs at least one core remotely piloted aircraft mission and/or is co-located with an active-duty distributed ground system. Once an installation is selected, MQ-9 crews will control the MQ-9 from that location, but no aircraft will be assigned to these units.

The Air Force also selected Eglin AFB, Florida; Tyndall AFB, Florida; Vandenberg AFB, California, and Shaw AFB as candidates for the second location, which would potentially host a full MQ-9 wing, to include both a launch and recovery element and a mission control element, as well as a maintenance group and operations support personnel. That location is expected to have up to 24 MQ-9 aircraft assigned.

The Air Force is pursuing additional basing locations to help diversify assignment opportunities for personnel within the MQ-9 enterprise, provide increased opportunities for leadership from within the community, and provide flexibility to enhance integration with other organizations and capabilities.

The desire for additional locations for an MQ-9 wing was identified during surveys of officers and enlisted Airmen in the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 enterprise as part of Air Combat Command’s Culture and Process Improvement Program.

“We are using the strategic basing process to determine the best locations for hosting additional locations for the MQ-9 mission,” said Jennifer L. Miller, the deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations. “As we go through the basing process, we will use the information we collect to help us determine the affordability and potential locations for expanding the MQ-9 enterprise.”

ACC will now conduct site surveys at all eight locations. Site survey teams will assess each location against requirements, potential impacts to existing missions, infrastructure and manpower. They will also develop cost estimates to bed down the planned units.

Based on the results of these efforts, the Air Force plans to select the preferred alternatives as early as the winter of 2016. Final basing decisions will be made by the secretary of the Air Force after the requisite environmental analysis is complete.