During a joint service training exercise over the Gulf of Mexico, MQ-9 Reaper successfully hit a sea-going target with an AGM-114 Hellfire missile fitted on one of its pylons.
This is being considered as remarkable step as it was the first time a remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) hit a maritime target.
“It was the first time we had put live weapons into boats and participated in maritime (exercises),” said Capt. Timothy Ford, a 26th Weapons Squadron flight commander. “For our (RPA) community it’s a big step forward, it’s a mission set we had looked at for a long time and training opportunities over water are not very prevalent (at Nellis).”
“It’s the first opportunity for us to fly with the F-35, talk to each other and coordinate attacks between the two platforms and ensure deconfliction while we’re doing that,” said Capt. Ryan Cross, a 26th WPS training officer.
Another high note of the exercise was that it provided the RPA community an oppourtunity to demonstrate unique capabilties of MQ-9 to operators of other aircraft.
The MQ-9 is designed in a way that it can stay in a potentially hostile area for hours. It can not only collect intelligence but also pass that information on to other aircraft when it becomes a more volatile situation.
“As soon as it does become a situation where the shooting happens, we’re the ones with the situational awareness because we’ve been there so long and we’re able to pass that on to other fighters as they check in and build their situational awareness,” Ford said. “That’s our role in a lot of mission sets. It’s nice to be able to prove it in a maritime environment.”
Since, relationship between MQ-9 and other aircraft have been established and proven, it will open doors to more training opportunities around the country.
The 26th WPS is a squadron assigned to the U.S. Air Force Weapons School, which trains tactical experts and leaders of Airmen skilled in the art of integrated battle-space dominance across the land, air, space and cyber domains.