HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
(Editor’s note: Last names are withheld due to operational security constraints)
The United States Air Force provides day and night support to troops all around the world, and Holloman Air Force Base’s remotely piloted aircraft training mission is at the forefront.
“We are making the transition from the Block 1 MQ-9 Reaper and Block 15 Ground Control Station to the Block 5 MQ-9 Reaper and the Block 30 GCS,” said Lt. Col. Alfred Rosales, 6th Attack Squadron commander. “Quite frankly it is a step in the right direction toward the innovation piece that the RPA community has been founded on.”
Holloman’s step forward with introducing an upgraded Block 5 and Block 30 to its training arsenal represents a constant strive for innovation.
“We are at the cutting edge of technology when it comes to the MQ-9,” said Staff Sgt. Anthony, 6th Attack Squadron sensor operator.
The introduction of the Block 5 and Block 30 technology onto the battlefield June 23, 2017, called for an update to the Air Force’s RPA training program.
“The goal is to make the transition not so shocking when you go to a unit with these technologies,” said Rosales. “We do not want this transition to be a big jump when you go from a schoolhouse like this to the Combat Air Forces.”
The previous Block 1 MQ-9 and Block 15 GCS have been replaced with greater software and camera capabilities by their newer counterparts.
“The Block 5 is different on the sensor side because they now have high definition video,” said Maj. Jay, MQ-9 pilot with the 6th Attack Squadron. “On the pilot’s side, the aircraft now has a generator and alternator that charges the batteries in flight which we previously did not have.”
Along with a more advanced camera and electrical system, the Block 5 and Block 30 are accompanied with an advanced communications systems, and streamlined payload capabilities.
“The Block 30 GCS has been made better for the crew, improving resource management and how we communicate with each other,” said Rosales. “We even upgraded the positions of where our radio antenna are, they are now on the wings as opposed to the fuselage.”
Improvements made for the Block 5 and Block 30 were influenced by needs of military members.
“Those weren’t just requests from our RPA warfighters but also the guys on the ground saying they would like to have stronger communication links with the radios,” said Rosales. “We went back to the drawing board and looked at the ways we could fix it.”
Technology enhances every day, and the Air Force has made part of its job to always improve. Providing new and better capabilities is inherent to that mission, making the upgrades to Holloman’s MQ-9s paramount.
“The Air force is always getting better,” said Jay. “Its implementation and evolution in technology in the RPA community is just another step in that direction. It is all about providing value to our Airmen downrange and making the RPA enterprise more beneficial as a whole.”