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US Air Force MQ-9 Reaper Aircraft Play Integral Role in Exercise Valiant Shield 2022

Exercise Valiant Shield 2022 included MQ-9 aircraft in exercise operations for the first time May 25 through June 20 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. The 119th Wing, North Dakota Air National Guard and the 174th Attack Wing, New York Air National Guard, launched, flew and recovered MQ-9 Reaper aircraft to provide mission critical awareness during the exercise. Valiant Shield 2022 was a 12-day joint field training exercise (FTX) aimed to enhance integration between the U.S. Military forces by conducting joint operations at sea, on land, in air, and in cyberspace. Exercise Valiant Shield has been a success in bringing units together to show the capabilities that the MQ-9 Reaper provides with maritime domain awareness, FMV, Maritime Wide-area Search (MWAS).

It provided an opportunity for the MQ-9 enterprise members to partner together and make a difference while providing dynamic force employment, and maritime domain awareness in a new location. Members of the 119th Wing and 174th Attack Wing partnered together to demonstrate the capabilities of the MQ-9 Reaper in an overseas location. Pilots and sensor operators from multiple units also participated by flying the MQ-9 aircraft from ground control stations from bases located within the continental United States. The MQ-9 is essential to providing awareness that other aircraft cannot. With its extensive loiter time and sensor capabilities, the MQ-9 is a highly capable aircraft that gives insight that others are not able to.

U.S. Air Force members of the 119th Wing assemble an MQ-9 reaper aircraft for exercise Valiant Shield at Anderson Air Force Base, Guam, May 26, 2022. Members of the 119th Wing and 174th Attack Squadron partnered together to demonstrate the capabilities of the MQ-9 Reaper in an overseas location. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st class Christa Anderson)

“It’s the first time we have had the MQ-9 participate in dynamic force employment in the heart of Indo-Pacific Command which makes this a significant exercise,” said a sensor operator of the 119th Wing participating in the exercise.

“One example of the MQ-9 providing maritime domain awareness for Exercise Valiant Shield was a simulated ᴋɪʟʟ chain exercise where the MQ-9 was able to identify, target, and track the asset by using full-motion video (FMV) and disseminating intelligence of a tier 1 target. Without the MQ-9 being in this ᴋɪʟʟ-chain exercise, it would not have gone well and it would have been unsuccessful without our capabilities,” said 119th Wing MQ-9 Pilot 1 participating in the exercise.

The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capable of remotely controlled or autonomous flight operations developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) primarily for the U.S. Air Force. The MQ-9 and other UAVs are referred to as Remotely Piloted Vehicles/Aircraft (RPV/RPA) by the USAF to indicate their human ground controllers. The MQ-9 is the first hunter-ᴋɪʟʟer UAV designed for long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance. The U.S. Air Force operated over 300 MQ-9 Reapers with 16 additional units on the way as authorized by the FY2021 Congressional budget. Several new equipment upgrades had been retrofitted onto some of the active MQ-9 aircraft to improve performance in “high-end ᴄᴏᴍʙᴀᴛ situations” as of that date.

U.S. Air Force members of the 174th Attack Wing, New York Air National Guard, and the 119th Maintenance Squadron, of the North Dakota Air National Guard, work as a cohesive unit to launch MQ-9 Reaper aircraft at Anderson Air Force Base, Guam, during Exercise Valliant Shield, June 7, 2022. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st class Christa Anderson)