HomeNewsArticle Display

432nd WG/432nd AEW brings Reaper airpower into the new decade

432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Airmen pose in front of an MQ-9 Reaper underneath a Nevada sunset.

432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Airmen pose with an MQ-9 Reaper for a photo at Creech Air Force Base, Nev., Nov. 19, 2019. The MQ-9 and its aircrew are one of the most demanded U.S. Air Force assets due to its ability to be employed primarily against dynamic targets and secondarily as an intelligence collection asset. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class William Rio Rosado)

CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- An MQ-1 Predator takes off to fly a training mission under the 432d Wing and 432d Air Expeditionary Wing. Recently, a U.S. Air Force captain assigned to the 432 WG/AEW was the first 18X to become launch-and-recovery qualified as a remotely piloted aircraft pilot. (Photo by 432 Wing/432d Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs)

CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- An MQ-1 Predator takes off to fly a training mission under the 432d Wing and 432d Air Expeditionary Wing. Recently, a U.S. Air Force captain assigned to the 432 WG/AEW was the first 18X to become launch-and-recovery qualified as a remotely piloted aircraft pilot. (Photo by 432 Wing/432d Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs)

CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. – A sensor operator from the 432nd Operations Support Squadron, scans his controls during a simulated training mission in a MQ-1 Predator, over the Nevada Test Range, Nev. Oct. 26, 2013. The basic crew for the Predator is a rated pilot to control the aircraft and command the mission, and an enlisted aircrew member to operate sensors and weapons as well as a mission coordinator, when required. The crew employs the aircraft from inside the ground control station via a line-of-sight data link or a satellite data link for beyond line-of-sight operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. A.D./RELEASED)

CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. – A sensor operator from the 432nd Operations Support Squadron, scans his controls during a simulated training mission in a MQ-1 Predator, over the Nevada Test Range, Nev. Oct. 26, 2013. The basic crew for the Predator is a rated pilot to control the aircraft and command the mission, and an enlisted aircrew member to operate sensors and weapons as well as a mission coordinator, when required. The crew employs the aircraft from inside the ground control station via a line-of-sight data link or a satellite data link for beyond line-of-sight operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. A.D./RELEASED)

CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. – An MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper prepare for takeoff on the Creech Air Force Base, Nev., flightline July 18, 2013. Both aircraft are armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that are employed primarily as intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets.

CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. – An MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper prepare for takeoff on the Creech Air Force Base, Nev., flightline July 18, 2013. Both aircraft are armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that are employed primarily as intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets.

Staff Sgt. Vanessa, 42nd Attack Squadron sensor operator, front, and Capt. Andrew, 18th Reconnaissance Squadron pilot, follow a vehicle with a remotely piloted aircraft in a flight training simulator May 28, 2014. The two-person crew was selected to fly the 65th air combat patrol, an initiative set by then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates Dec. 23, 2009 (Last names have been withheld for security purposes). (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Adawn Kelsey/Released)

Staff Sgt. Vanessa, 42nd Attack Squadron sensor operator, front, and Capt. Andrew, 18th Reconnaissance Squadron pilot, follow a vehicle with a remotely piloted aircraft in a flight training simulator May 28, 2014. The two-person crew was selected to fly the 65th air combat patrol, an initiative set by then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates Dec. 23, 2009 (Last names have been withheld for security purposes). (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Adawn Kelsey/Released)

Airmen from the 432nd Wing/ 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing perform maintenance on an MQ-9 Reaper in preparation to support Red Flag 16-3 July 20, 2016, at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. The exercise incorporates a wide range of training for air, space, and cyber systems that prepare Airmen for future operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kristan Campbell/Released)

Airmen from the 432nd Wing/ 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing perform maintenance on an MQ-9 Reaper in preparation to support Red Flag 16-3 July 20, 2016, at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. The exercise incorporates a wide range of training for air, space, and cyber systems that prepare Airmen for future operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kristan Campbell/Released)

An MQ-1 Predator flies a training mission Dec. 12, 2016, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. An MQ-1 aircrew destroyed a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device heading toward approximately 850 friendlies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christian Clausen)

An MQ-1 Predator flies a training mission Dec. 12, 2016, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. An MQ-1 aircrew destroyed a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device heading toward approximately 850 friendlies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christian Clausen)

The new Block 5 MQ-9 Reaper is loaded with AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, a GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bomb and a GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition April 13, 2017, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. On 23 June, 2017, the latest version of the MQ-9 Reaper, the Block 5 variant, was successfully flown in combat in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. The aircrew flew a sortie of over 16 hours with a full payload of weapons including GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. During the mission, the crew employed one GBU-38 and two Hellfires while providing hours of armed reconnaissance for supported ground forces. The Block 5 is equipped with improved electrical and communications systems which provides better software and hardware upgrades for future operations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christian Clausen)

The new Block 5 MQ-9 Reaper is loaded with AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, a GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bomb and a GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition April 13, 2017, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. On 23 June, 2017, the latest version of the MQ-9 Reaper, the Block 5 variant, was successfully flown in combat in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. The aircrew flew a sortie of over 16 hours with a full payload of weapons including GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. During the mission, the crew employed one GBU-38 and two Hellfires while providing hours of armed reconnaissance for supported ground forces. The Block 5 is equipped with improved electrical and communications systems which provides better software and hardware upgrades for future operations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christian Clausen)

From left to right, the Frankenphone, the Frankenphone 2.0 and the headset connector are displayed June 12, 2017, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. The Frankenphone has filled a gap for a long term solution to communications deficiencies by routing calls from the joint terminal attack controllers to the telephone and patching it into the aircrew’s headsets. This has allowed MQ-9 aircrews to properly receive weapons strike guidance from the ground forces to take the fight to the enemy. The Frankenphone 2.0 offered improved durability and sound clarity while the headset connector is an evolution of the Frankenphone which is already integrated in the Audio Multi Level System. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christian Clausen)

From left to right, the Frankenphone, the Frankenphone 2.0 and the headset connector are displayed June 12, 2017, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. The Frankenphone has filled a gap for a long term solution to communications deficiencies by routing calls from the joint terminal attack controllers to the telephone and patching it into the aircrew’s headsets. This has allowed MQ-9 aircrews to properly receive weapons strike guidance from the ground forces to take the fight to the enemy. The Frankenphone 2.0 offered improved durability and sound clarity while the headset connector is an evolution of the Frankenphone which is already integrated in the Audio Multi Level System. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christian Clausen)

An MQ-9 Reaper flies a training mission Oct. 18, 2017, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. Combat remotely piloted aircraft such as the MQ-9 and MQ-1 Predator were heavily integrated during combat operations to liberate Raqqah, Syria, from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s control in early October. During the push to free the city, RPA aircrews flew more than 44,000 hours and employed approximately 20 percent of the coalition strike effort. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christian Clausen)
PHOTO DETAILS  /   DOWNLOAD HI-RES 10 of 14

An MQ-9 Reaper flies a training mission Oct. 18, 2017, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. Combat remotely piloted aircraft such as the MQ-9 and MQ-1 Predator were heavily integrated during combat operations to liberate Raqqah, Syria, from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s control in early October. During the push to free the city, RPA aircrews flew more than 44,000 hours and employed approximately 20 percent of the coalition strike effort. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christian Clausen)

The Predator started as an RQ-1 in the late 1990s, providing only reconnaissance capabilities until the early 2000s, when it was equipped with two AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and designated as a multirole asset.
PHOTO DETAILS  /   DOWNLOAD HI-RES 11 of 14

An MQ-1 Predator sits on the flight line Dec. 8, 2016, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. The Predator started as an RQ-1 in the late 1990s, providing only reconnaissance capabilities until the early 2000s, when it was equipped with two AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and designated as a multirole asset. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christian Clausen)

An MQ-1 Predator taxis on the runway March 9, 2018, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. Today, the MQ-1 took flight for the last time at Creech, marking its retirement and the transition to an all MQ-9 Reaper force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman James Thompson)
PHOTO DETAILS  /   DOWNLOAD HI-RES 12 of 14

An MQ-1 Predator taxis on the runway March 9, 2018, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. Today, the MQ-1 took flight for the last time at Creech, marking its retirement and the transition to an all MQ-9 Reaper force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman James Thompson)

Col. Cavan Craddock, 99th Air Base Wing commander, and Col. Douglas, 799th Air Base Group commander, furls the 799th ABG guidon at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, July 11, 2019. The 799th ABG and other Nellis units that have provided Creech necessary support services in the past were deactivated to allow the 432nd Mission Support Group and its units to activate in their place. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Haley Stevens)
PHOTO DETAILS  /   DOWNLOAD HI-RES 13 of 14

Col. Cavan Craddock, 99th Air Base Wing commander, and Col. Douglas, 799th Air Base Group commander, furls the 799th ABG guidon at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, July 11, 2019. The 799th ABG and other Nellis units that have provided Creech necessary support services in the past were deactivated to allow the 432nd Mission Support Group and its units to activate in their place. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Haley Stevens)

An MQ-9 Reaper sits on the flight line underneath a Nevada sunset.
PHOTO DETAILS  /   DOWNLOAD HI-RES 14 of 14

An MQ-9 Reaper sits on the flight line as the sun sets at Creech Air Force Base, Nev., Nov. 20, 2019. The Reaper provides dominant, persistent attack and reconnaissance 24/7/365. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class William Rio Rosado)

CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. --

In early 2009, a recently reactivated combat unit, now named the 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing, achieved the mark of 500,000 hours of combat, for a relatively new form of airpower, known as Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA). 

In roughly a decade, the MQ-1 Predator (Ret) and MQ-9 Reaper, RPA's designed for enhanced loitering capability and capable of precision strikes, and the Airmen who operate, maintain, and support it, have achieved milestones unheard of by traditionally-manned counterparts. 

Born out of combat necessity, the MQ-1 and MQ-9 platforms were being operated through traditionally-trained manned aircraft pilots. The Air Force announced the creation of the 18X, remotely piloted aircraft pilot, career field training pipeline in June 2010. 

By July 2011, one of the first Beta 18X graduates was also launch-and-recovery qualified, marking the beginning of a new era of pilot. 

The same Airmen who laid the groundwork for training, also enhanced mission capabilities through the creation of the first ISR video editing training program in 2012, which then secured the 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing the 2013 Air Combat Command Meritorious Unit Award for outstanding achievement in direct support of combat operations. 

The MQ-9, and its operators, proceeded to prove to combatant commanders its utility as a platform on par with traditional counterparts during a 2014 exercise, marking one of the first times RPA assets were allowed to travel in formation.

Soon after that, the RPA enterprise community banded together to meet Secretary of Defense initiative to support 65 combat lines, a stark contrast to the 33 combat lines flown in 2008. 

Beginning in later 2014, the Remotely Piloted Aircraft Enterprise became pivotal in the eradication of ISIS through Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR). 

While the MQ-1 and MQ-9 mission in Iraq and Syria initially focused on information gathering and battlespace awareness, the 432nd WG's involvement quickly evolved, providing a persistent attack capability due to the precision effects provided by the MQ-1 and MQ-9 aircraft.  Escalating in parallel with their own strikes from the MQ-1/9, the 432nd WG has also provided a significant number of buddy lases, proving the platforms’ ability to integrate with traditional aircraft, such as the A-10 Warthog, F-15E Strike Eagle and F-16 Viper. 

“Before OIR many people may not have known what an RPA was truly capable of," said Capt. Ryan, a 15th Reconnaissance Squadron MQ-1 Predator in a former Creech AFB news story. "Now before combatant commanders take the risk of potentially losing a manned aircraft they will come to us and ask if we've found them targets. We have 24/7 coverage, so we know what the battlefield looks like and how it has changed. They're using us for their situational awareness which improves their safety as well."

The milestones and innovations within the 432nd WG/43nd AEW were vast within, but not limited to, the battlespace. Airmen within the Hunter family challenged technology, tactics, techniques and procedures through regulated integrations with exercises, creations such as the “Frankenphone,” as well as testing and implementation of new munitions such as the GBU-38 in 2017.  

Arguably one of the largest changes for the enterprise, was the retirement of the MQ-1 Predator from the Air Force inventory in March 9, 2018. Thus, marking the beginning of an all-MQ-9 Reaper force. 

Closing out the decade, 2019 had not been short of record-making. 

March marked the combined milestone of the MQ-1 and MQ-9 reaching 4 million flight hours. Soon following, Creech AFB gained dedicated support functions through the activation of its own Mission Support Group (MSG).

The standup of the MSG then enabled 432nd WG/432nd AEW commander, Col. Stephen Jones, to gain installation command authority of Creech AFB, which previously served as an auxiliary of Nellis AFB.

The growth and development of infrastructure for Creech AFB ties directly to the demand of the MQ-9 and the Airmen who enable its mission. The longevity of the Reaper, and the pursuit of greater utilization of its capabilities, is evident when looking forward to 2020.

“Where I’m focused as we enter the New Year is to continue strong with our current mission” Jones said in a message to his Airmen. “Our next step is to prepare our [MQ-9] weapons system for potential future conflicts. You will see us evolve, not only our hardware and software, but the tactics, techniques and procedures that we use to more effectively employ our Reapers in anticipated contested environments.

“This is a mission that is non-stop, it has been for years, and it will continue for years.”