MQ-9 Pilot participates in CENTAT

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman William Rio Rosado
  • 432 W

Operations within the remotely piloted aircraft enterprise are proving to be essential in the advancement of tactics and procedures in the joint environment. For the first time, an MQ-9 Reaper pilot joined intelligence analysts in the Air Forces Central Tactics Analysis Team (CENTAT).

Capt. David, a 482nd Attack Squadron pilot, collaborated with the AFCENT Tactics and Adversary Studies Element (CENTASE) to bring a new perspective to light for the intelligence community.

Every year, members from CENTASE bring together 25 different organizations to collaborate and develop an intelligence report. This report serves as the backbone of the U.S. Air Force's Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures Manual 3-1, directly impacting how the USAF "trains to fight."

David became the first MQ-9 pilot to participate in the four-week tactics conference and helped update the threat picture for the aircrew community, including the RPA enterprise.

“We have this big intelligence machine that works behind the scenes,” David said. “And what was eye-opening in the CENTAT, was how much analysis is going on to provide us with these missions.”

On the flipside, David helped members of the intelligence community to better understand the capabilities the RPA enterprise brings to the fight.

“David was able to tell us what RPA pilots care about and what they look for,” said Master Sgt. Colin Gray, 51st Intelligence Squadron CENTASE chief. “And with the growing rate of RPA sorties within our [area of responsibility], it was important to have that representation.”

The 25th Attack Group and AFCENT’s relationship goes back to the days of the MQ-1 Predator. With David’s contribution as an MQ-9 pilot, the two were able to further prove the viability of RPAs in the future fight.

The CENTAT looked at the relationship between the 25th ATKG and AFCENT in a new light. It became clear the evolution of airpower will thrive as tactical analysis teams begin to include RPA pilots.

“Us being a part of that [CENTAT] ultimately refines the process and improves the product,” David said. “There is also some cross flow acculturation and appreciation for what each of us do.”

The 432d Wing, the parent wing of the 25th ATKG, has been at the forefront of innovation since birth and the RPA enterprise’s ceiling continues to grow as they build relationships like the 25th ATKG and AFCENT’s.

“Having that relationship with the 25th ATKG has given us different avenues of collection and things we might not have seen otherwise,” Gray said. “And the intelligence community appreciates them. It’s not just the fighters, the heavies and the bombers we’re working with and working for. It’s the guys flying the RPAs as well.”

The way of the RPA may not be the most human of interactions for the warfighter but its success is owed to the interactions made face to face. Whether it be Airman to Soldier, pilot to sensor operator, or aircrew to intelligence analysts in the CENTAT.

“At the end of the day, the human aspect is still super important,” David said. “And with everything going remote and digital, there is still a huge personal component of being an effective machine.”