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174th Fighter Wing Maintenance Personnel "Writing" the Book on U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Maintenance Procedures

Members of the 174th Fighter Wing Maintenance Group prepare a MQ-9 Reaper for its initial taxi at Wheeler-Sack Army Air Field at Ft. Drum, NY, on 30 June 2011. The pre-taxi activity took place in temporary hanger space provided by the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division. This milestone represented the unit's first step toward flying the MQ-9 from its detachment at Ft. Drum.  The wing is based at Hancock Field in Syracuse, New York.  (US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Call)

Members of the 174th Fighter Wing Maintenance Group prepare a MQ-9 Reaper for its initial taxi at Wheeler-Sack Army Air Field at Ft. Drum, NY, on 30 June 2011. The pre-taxi activity took place in temporary hanger space provided by the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division. This milestone represented the unit's first step toward flying the MQ-9 from its detachment at Ft. Drum. The wing is based at Hancock Field in Syracuse, New York. (US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Call)

U.S. Air Force Maj. Timothy Martin, 174th Fighter Wing Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander, oversees members of the ground crew prepare a MQ-9 Reaper for its first taxi movements at Wheeler-Sack Army Air Field in Watertown, NY, on 30 June 2011.  The 174th Fighter Wing is the first Air National Guard unit to operate the MQ-9. (US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Call)

U.S. Air Force Maj. Timothy Martin, 174th Fighter Wing Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander, oversees members of the ground crew prepare a MQ-9 Reaper for its first taxi movements at Wheeler-Sack Army Air Field in Watertown, NY, on 30 June 2011. The 174th Fighter Wing is the first Air National Guard unit to operate the MQ-9. (US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Call)

Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, Syracuse, NY -- Since Hancock Field Air National Guard Base converted from the F-16 Fighting Falcon to the MQ-9 Reaper, the flight line has become more silent and there has been a noticeable reduction in the level of aircraft maintenance activity on the base.

However, that all began to change recently as the unit commenced MQ-9 flying operations at Wheeler-Sack Army Air Field (WSAAF) at Ft. Drum, NY and the 174th FW Maintenance Group resumed a more normal maintenance posture on base.

"Our maintenance personnel have contributed to the creating and/or validation of approximately 80% of all maintenance technical data for the U. S. Air Force in regards to maintenance for the MQ-9", said Maj. Tim Martin, 174th Fighter Wing Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Commander.

Currently, the 174th Fighter Wing flies at its training range located at WSAAF with 174th Fighter Wing maintenance personnel positioned there to assist with necessary maintenance requirements. However, when more in-depth maintenance needs to be done those aircraft are boxed up and transported back to Hancock Field where 174th Fighter Wing maintenance troops begin the more arduous maintenance work. As a result of this maintenance activity, the unit has been generating a significant amount of technical data concerning the proper maintenance of the MQ-9.

"We are importing what the U. S. Air Force is using as it relates to the MQ-9 for technical data, maintenance procedures, etc. as well as providing improvements for the overall care and maintenance of the MQ-9", said Martin.

As the unit continues to fly at WSAAF, the maintenance tempo has picked up dramatically to include pre and post-flight maintenance in addition to maintenance issues that have never been seen before. In fact, the unit has submitted more than 100 engineering requests during the past two years for technical data on how to fix certain issues with the MQ-9. In comparison to the F-16, which the unit only submitted three engineering requests during the unit's some 20 years of flying the aircraft.

"The maintenance personnel here at Hancock Field are becoming the subject matter experts for the MQ-9, while working very closely with the U. S. Air Force and General Atomics. These maintainers have a vested interest in the technical data that is being written for this aircraft and they take that responsibility very seriously knowing they have the potential in helping to decide the proper and safest procedures for maintaining the MQ-9", said Martin.

The MQ-9 is a medium-to-high altitude, long endurance remotely piloted aircraft system. The Reaper's primary missions are close air support, air interdiction, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or ISR. It acts as a Joint Forces Air Component Commander-owned theater asset for reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition in support of the Joint Forces Commander

The turboprop-powered, multi-mission Predator B Unmanned Aircraft System was developed with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., funding and provides significantly greater capabilities than Predator.

First flown in 2001, Predator B is a highly sophisticated development built on the experience gained with GA-ASI's battle-proven Predator UAS and a major evolutionary leap in overall performance and reliability.

With an operational ceiling of 50,000 feet, and higher cruising speed, the MQ-9 can cover a larger area, under all weather conditions carrying payloads of more than 1.5 tons. The aircraft is powered by a single Honeywell TP331-10 engine, which provides a maximum airspeed of 260 knots and a cruise speed for maximum endurance of 150-170 knots.

This aircraft has been acquired by the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, NASA, the Royal Air Force and the Italian Air Force.