Testers Time the Reaper's Ability to Deploy

A team of testers lifts the MQ-9 Reaper UAV for a landing gear operational check at Kandahar Air Base, Afghanistan.
Photo: USAF

10/26/2007 - EDWARDS AFB, CA -- The Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center Detachment 5 and the 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron recently tested the MQ-9 Reaper Unmanned Aerial Vehicle system's ability to deploy to a forward operating location in support of mission tasking.

The team performed the testing at Kandahar Air Base, Afghanistan, from Sept. 4 through 25.

"We tested the amount of time required to get the entire MQ-9 weapon system operational -- from disassembly and transport to assembly of the aircraft in a deployed location and technical checks," said 1st Lt. John Feely, MQ-9 program analyst.

The MQ-9's system includes the aircraft, ground control station, antennas and all support equipment.

"Unlike manned aircraft, the MQ-9 won't be flown directly to the forward operating location (when deployed)," said Tech. Sgt. Alton Chang, 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron aircraft segment noncommissioned officer in charge. "All components of the system will be disassembled, packed up in coffins, loaded into transport aircraft and flown as cargo to the location."

Since the Reaper is still in its testing phase, the Air Force is accelerating the testing process by performing the deployability test to Afghanistan, Lieutenant Feely said.

General Atomics, producer of the MQ-9, broke down the Reaper system and packed it up at the Gray Butte Auxiliary Airfield, Calif. The aircraft and support equipment were then shipped to Afghanistan for operations by the 42nd Attack Squadron at Creech Air Force Base, Nev.

Once everything was reassembled in Afghanistan, the ground control station and the aircraft were checked to ensure nothing was damaged during transit.

"Each individual system was checked according to technical orders such as sensor systems, flight controls, engine operation and radios," said Master Sgt. Jeffery Bailey, 31st TES MQ-9 logistics evaluation superintendent.

"The entire Reaper system should be fully mission capable in a certain amount of time after arrival in theater," said Tech. Sgt. Paul Lockwood, 31st TES MQ-9 ground segment noncommissioned officer in charge.

The test went very well, he said.

The Air Force currently has nine Reapers in its inventory. Its primary mission is to hunt and kill emerging targets.

Source: USAF Edwards AFB Press Release by Senior Airman Julius Delos Reyes

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