Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

April 14, 2016 at 8:25am

Could Reaper come to McChord Field?

An MQ-9 Reaper taxis into position. Could this aircraft call McChord Field home? The Air Force is looking at bases, and McChord Field could fit the bill. Photo credit: U.S. Air Force

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The Air Force released basing criteria, April 12, that will be used to select candidate bases for a potential new MQ-9 Reaper wing with units at up to two locations.

The Air Force is pursuing additional 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-9 and MQ-1 Predator enterprise as part of Air Combat Command's Culture and Process Improvement Program.

"We are initiating 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 MQ-9 enterprise."

The basing criteria will focus on mission requirements (runway length for the launch and recovery mission and synergies between common missions with existing units), capacity, environmental requirements and cost factors.

The Air Force will first identify a location to potentially host an operations group with mission control elements. All active-duty Air Force bases in the continental U.S., Alaska and Hawaii that do not currently have an MQ-9 wing, will be evaluated. The locations being considered must also have an active-duty flying wing or group that performs at least one core RPA mission and/or is co-located with an active-duty distributed ground system. MQ-9 crews will fly the MQ-9 from these locations, but no aircraft will be associated with these units.

The Air Force also plans to identify a second potential location, which may host a full MQ-9 wing that will include a launch and recovery element and a mission control element. This second installation must be an active-duty Air Force installation in the continental U.S., Alaska or Hawaii that has at least an 8,000-foot runway and does not currently have an MQ-9 wing. This location is expected to have 24 MQ-9s located there. McChord Field fits this criteria.

After identifying candidate bases, ACC will conduct site surveys at each location. 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 units.

Based on the results of these efforts, the Air Force plans to identify candidate installations in the summer of 2016 and the preferred alternatives in the winter of 2016/2017. Final basing decisions will be made by the secretary of the Air Force after the requisite environmental analysis is complete. 

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