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MQ-9 Reaper arrives at Hancock Field ANGB

The 174th Fighter Wing, Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, Syracuse, NY shows off it's latest aircraft: The MQ-9 "Reaper". The unit will begin flying Combat Air Patrols with the MQ-9 beginning in November of this year, while flying out the F-16 Fighting Falcon until March 2010. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeremy M. Call/RELEASED)

The 174th Fighter Wing, Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, Syracuse, NY shows off it's latest aircraft: The MQ-9 "Reaper". The unit will begin flying Combat Air Patrols with the MQ-9 beginning in November of this year, while flying out the F-16 Fighting Falcon until March 2010. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeremy M. Call/RELEASED)

The 174th Fighter Wing, Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, Syracuse, NY shows off it's latest aircraft: The MQ-9 "Reaper". The unit will begin flying Combat Air Patrols with the MQ-9 beginning in November of this year, while flying out the F-16 Fighting Falcon until March 2010. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeremy M. Call/RELEASED)

The 174th Fighter Wing, Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, Syracuse, NY shows off it's latest aircraft: The MQ-9 "Reaper". The unit will begin flying Combat Air Patrols with the MQ-9 beginning in November of this year, while flying out the F-16 Fighting Falcon until March 2010. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeremy M. Call/RELEASED)

Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, Syracuse, NY -- The 174th Fighter Wing has flown manned aircraft for more than 60 years, however all that will be changing very soon as the unit is converting to the MQ-9 Reaper. 

The unit has been in conversion mode since it returned from its last scheduled Air Expeditionary Force rotation with the F-16 in June 2008, but as the moment gets closer the realization of this switch becomes more evident. 

On Friday the 26th of June the 174th Fighter Wing invited the local media and in-turn informed the community about the conversion process to the MQ-9 Reaper. Col. Kevin W. Bradley, 174FW Commander, spoke about the changes as he briefed the media about this new mission. 

"Obviously as you can see there is no cockpit, no place for the pilot to sit within the aircraft. However, the pilot will be sitting in the cock pit, the Ground Control Station, on the ground next to the sensor operator controlling the aircraft in theatre from right here in Syracuse", said Bradley. 

The unit will begin flying Combat Air Patrols with the MQ-9 beginning in November of this year, while continuing to fly the F-16 till March of 2010. However, they will also be conducting maintenance training for the MQ-9 Reaper starting this October within their Field Training Detachment. 

The FTD is a newly renovated building that has classrooms as well a fixed GCS, which will be used to train all MQ-9 maintainers for the U.S. Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard. 

"Starting this October the Field Training Detachment will begin teaching various classes relating to the maintenance of the MQ-9 Reaper. These classes will vary it length ranging from six to eight weeks long", said Col. John M. Balbierer, 174FW Maintenance Group Commander. 

The MQ-9 on base is being used as the maintenance trainer and it arrived in January of this year. Balbierer explained to the media that it took his maintenance staff approximately a day and a half to assemble the aircraft working a normal eight hour schedule. 

The aircraft was transported on base on a flat bed truck and arrived in numerous containers; however this was only the beginning for assembling this aircraft. The 174th FW worked side-by-side with technicians from General Atomics utilizing their technical manuals and trying to create Air Force technical orders based on this joint endeavor. 

"Air Combat Command has entrusted our maintainers to validate the Technical Orders based on the General Atomics technical manuals for use by all MQ-9 Reaper Air Force maintenance personnel", said Balbierer. 

The unit will maintain 2 aircraft for maintenance training and 14 additional aircraft for actual flying missions, two of those actually operating in the local area. 

The 174th Fighter Wing was formed on October 28, 1947 as the 138th Fighter Squadron. The 138th FS was the first post-WWII Air National Guard flying unit in New York State. The unit flew P-47D Thunderbolts and was based at the former Army Air Force facilities at Hancock Field. 

The 174th Fighter Wing is the first Air National Guard Unit to fly the MQ-9 Reaper; currently Creech Air Force Base in Nevada is the only other unit to fly the MQ-9 Reaper.