The 46th Expeditionary Attack Squadron takes flight with the MQ-9 Reaper

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Helena Owens
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing

The 46th Expeditionary Attack Squadron serves a multi-faceted operation that is responsible for reconnaissance, intelligence and surveillance throughout the area of responsibility.

Here they have a launch and recovery element utilizing the MQ-9 Reaper to complete their mission to meet daily air tasking orders. The MQ-9s provide a persistent attack and reconnaissance capability to the theater.

“We ensure safe takeoff and landing of all MQ-9 Reapers,” said a sensor operator assigned to the 46th Expeditionary Attack Squadron. “Our job is essential for all missions in the area of responsibility.”

The MQ-9 Reaper is capable of carrying munitions, following high-value targets for an extended loiter time and can be piloted mostly by itself.

“We are the most requested asset,” said the sensor operator. “It makes me super proud to be a part of this squadron. As you know, we preach flexibility in the Air Force and our aircraft is the most flexible of all.”

Having the 46th EATKS here is essential for the mission control element back in America. They need assets down range to be close to any potential threats.

“We can easily track patterns of life, behavior and watch everyone without having boots on the ground,” said an MQ-9 Reaper pilot assigned to the 46th EATKS.

The MQ-9 Reaper can also conduct combat search and rescue.

“There have been times when a fighter jet or another asset has gone down and the MQ-9 is first on the scene,” said the pilot. “That’s priceless because the reaper has the ability to fly low and slow and loiter in an area to get a good picture of what’s happening on the ground. We can establish communication with the downed pilot to let them know what’s going on and advise them when to bed down and stay hidden until help has arrived.”

Technology and capabilities across the world are ever-changing; therefore, the Air Force has to adapt. The 46th EATKS has a very flexible asset that allows them to be a gateway to delivering concise combat air power for U.S. Central Command.