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ANG's First MQ-9 Schoolhouse Graduates Students

An instructor pilot makes a point during a MQ-9 Reaper training mission flown from a ground-based cockpit located at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, Syracuse, New York.  The 174th Fighter Wing is the only Air National Guard unit in the country to operate a MQ-9 Formal Training Unit (FTU) program to train aircrews from the active duty Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve.(photo by Tech. Sgt. Ricky Best/Released)

An instructor pilot makes a point during a MQ-9 Reaper training mission flown from a ground-based cockpit located at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, Syracuse, New York. The 174th Fighter Wing is the only Air National Guard unit in the country to operate a MQ-9 Formal Training Unit (FTU) program to train aircrews from the active duty Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve.(photo by Tech. Sgt. Ricky Best/Released)

An active duty Air Force student pilot and sensor operator man the controls of a MQ-9 Reaper in a ground-based cockpit during a training mission flown from Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, Syracuse, New York.  The 174th Fighter Wing operates the only ANG MQ-9 Formal Training Unit (FTU) which trains aircrews from the active duty Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Ricky Best/Released)

An active duty Air Force student pilot and sensor operator man the controls of a MQ-9 Reaper in a ground-based cockpit during a training mission flown from Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, Syracuse, New York. The 174th Fighter Wing operates the only ANG MQ-9 Formal Training Unit (FTU) which trains aircrews from the active duty Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Ricky Best/Released)

A student pilot mans the controls of a MQ-9 Reaper in a ground-based cockpit during a training mission flown from Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, Syracuse, New York.  The 174th Fighter Wing operates the only MQ-9 Formal Training Unit (FTU) in the Air National Guard to train aircrews from the active duty Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Ricky Best/ Released)

A student pilot mans the controls of a MQ-9 Reaper in a ground-based cockpit during a training mission flown from Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, Syracuse, New York. The 174th Fighter Wing operates the only MQ-9 Formal Training Unit (FTU) in the Air National Guard to train aircrews from the active duty Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Ricky Best/ Released)

A student pilot and sensor operator man the controls of a MQ-9 Reaper in a ground-based cockpit during a training mission flown from Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, Syracuse, New York. The 174th Fighter Wing is the only Air National Guard unit in the country to operate a MQ-9 Formal Training Unit (FTU) program to train aircrews from the active duty Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve. (photo by Tech. Sgt. Ricky Best/Released)

A student pilot and sensor operator man the controls of a MQ-9 Reaper in a ground-based cockpit during a training mission flown from Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, Syracuse, New York. The 174th Fighter Wing is the only Air National Guard unit in the country to operate a MQ-9 Formal Training Unit (FTU) program to train aircrews from the active duty Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve. (photo by Tech. Sgt. Ricky Best/Released)

A student sensor operator mans the controls of a MQ-9 Reaper in a ground-based cockpit during a recent training mission flown from Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, Syracuse, New York.  The 174th Fighter Wing is the only Air National Guard unit to operate a MQ-9 Formal Training Unit (FTU) program to train aircrews from the active duty Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve. (photo by Tech. Sgt. Ricky Best/Released)

A student sensor operator mans the controls of a MQ-9 Reaper in a ground-based cockpit during a recent training mission flown from Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, Syracuse, New York. The 174th Fighter Wing is the only Air National Guard unit to operate a MQ-9 Formal Training Unit (FTU) program to train aircrews from the active duty Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve. (photo by Tech. Sgt. Ricky Best/Released)

Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, Syracuse, New York -- Recently the New York Air National Guard's 174th Fighter Wing graduated the first four active duty aircrew members from its newly formed MQ-9 Reaper Formal Training Unit (FTU). The MQ-9 aircrew training mission is the latest in many that the Syracuse unit has been tasked with over its 65 years of existence.

New York was home to the first National Guard manned aircraft unit and now is home to the first MQ-9 remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) squadron. In November 1915, Captain Raynal Cawthorne Bolling organized and took command of a unit that became the 1st Aero Company, New York National Guard. It is recognized as the Air National Guard's oldest unit and its lineage is carried on by the 102nd Rescue Squadron, Westhampton Beach, NY. Like the 102nd, the 174th is proud to be breaking new ground in aviation.

The first FTU students graduated only five months after the 174th Fighter Wing was officially notified of its new FTU mission and are now assigned to active duty MQ-9 units.  According to one of the active duty graduates, "The Syracuse FTU has been top-notch from day 1. Easily the best learning environment I've experienced in the Air Force."

While at the FTU, these students went through an intense 45-day training course designed to transition pilots from flying the MQ-1 Predator to the MQ-9 Reaper. Roughly half their days were allocated to ground training with the other half were spent remotely flying the aircraft over military ranges near Watertown, New York or Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. This is the first and only FTU in the Air National Guard for the MQ-9 Reaper, which trains pilots and sensor operators on how to safely fly the MQ-9 Reaper.

The FTU will train the next generation of Air Force active duty, Reserve, Air National Guard and foreign military MQ-9 pilots and sensor operators so they can provide real-time, persistent watch over troops on the battlefield using the MQ-9 remotely piloted aircraft.