MQ-9 Reaper makes debut flyby at Aviation Nation

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Omari Bernard
  • 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing

The 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing made history by performing their first Aviation Nation MQ-9 Reaper flybys, and munitions load demonstrations, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Nov. 16-17.

While the remotely piloted aircraft flew through the skies, on the ground below there were pilots, sensor operators, maintenance and intelligence Airmen answering questions about the aircraft and their jobs at a static display of the MQ-9. The display helped guests attending the airshow better understand the Reaper’s capabilities, and meet the aircrew that enable it to fly.

“I think it was a huge success,” said 1st Lt. Jared, 15th Attack Squadron pilot and Aviation Nation MQ-9 static project officer. “It was a good opportunity to showcase the Remotely Piloted Aircraft to the public and dispel common misconceptions.”

Aviation Nation 2019, not only served as a platform for Creech Airmen to share what they do, but to develop the partnership with, and give thanks to, the Nellis and Las Vegas communities.

“The relationship between Creech and Nellis has, and continues to be, critical to our growth as an installation,” said Col. Stephen Jones, 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing commander. “We’re proud to be a part of the Las Vegas, Nevada community and are happy to know that so many people are there to support us.”

The MQ-9 static, created in 2017, is the only one of its kind in the Air Force inventory, and still very new to the Air Show realm. However, it was a step forward to also have the MQ-9 displayed in the skies, bringing a heightened sense of reality to the Reaper’s dominant persistent attack and reconnaissance mission.

“It’s a big step to show we have the capability to fly and integrate with the other aircraft,” said 1st Lt Kyle, 489th Attack Squadron pilot assigned to the flyby. “Looking at the future of the Air Force, [the MQ-9] is going to be right at the front of it.”

After the MQ-9 flew overhead each day, weapons Airmen performed a munitions load demonstration at the static display, something usually done in either a training or deployed setting. The weapons crew loaded training Guided Bomb Units (GBU)-12, GBU-39, and the Air-to-Ground Missile (AGM)-114 Hellfire missiles.

“There were a lot of first’s today,” said Jared. “Seeing the MQ-9 fly by and the bomb load made me proud to be a part of that. The Thunderbirds weren’t bad either.”

For many who made their way to the Reaper, it was their first time learning about their capabilities; from 24/7/365 intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), to close air support (CAS), to combat search and rescue (CSAR).

 “Today, the Hunter family made history at Aviation Nation,” said Jones. “However, our Airmen at Creech have, and continue to make history each and every day with every mission they support.”

Several Aviation Nation attendees who stopped to speak with aircrew about the MQ-9 expressed how they were impressed by the combination of traditional and Remotely Piloted Aircraft revolutionizing the fight against terrorism.

“I love air shows,” said Jones. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to share with the public what we in the world of warfare already know.

“The MQ-9 Reaper and the traditionally manned assets it flies with, are at the forefront. The Airmen you see out here today are changing the tides of war in our favor with each hour spent dedicated to our men and women on the ground, providing ISR, CAS and CSAR,” he continued. “We are saving lives.”