U.S. Air Force Begins Training on New MQ-9 Reaper Block 5
“The Block 5 aircraft charge batteries in flight,” said Kurtis, a captain with the 6th Attack Squadron, one of three RPA training squadrons assigned to the 49th Wing at Holloman AFB. (During a recent media visit there, airmen with RPA squadrons taped over their last names for security reasons.) “That was a deficiency with the Block 1 aircraft [for which] they did temporary fixes, but this essentially has a generator or an alternator that recharges your batteries in flight,” he explained. “Now your batteries stay fully charged throughout the duration of the mission.” In late June, Creech AFB in Nevada announced that the Block 5 Reaper had flown its “first successful” combat mission on June 23 in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria—a 16-hour sortie that included firing two AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and a single GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition. The first of the latest-model MQ-9s had arrived in late February at Creech AFB, from where the 432nd Wing operates strike and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions in support of overseas contingency operations. They received additional modifications to include battery cables and enhanced generator control units, then in May were flown locally to test their airworthiness after the modifications. By late May, the RPAs were packaged and shipped “to the area of responsibility.” On July 26, the 49th Wing at Holloman AFB said it was in the process of transitioning from the MQ-9 Block 1 to the Block 5 version and from a Block 15 ground control station (GCS) to the newer Block 30 in order to train new RPA pilots and sensor operators. The 6th Attack Squadron received the Block 5 Reaper in June and flew it for the first time in July, according to airmen at the base in the high desert of New Mexico. The wing’s 9th and 29th attack squadrons still use the Block 1 Reaper.
“I think the majority of our community loves our job and loves the mission that we do,” he told AIN. “Here at Holloman, the ops tempo and lifestyle are really great. On the operational side, depending on the time of year and when people are on leave and as things ebb and flow with people separating [from the Air Force], it can be tiring. You’re flying seven or eight hours a day, five or six days a week. I’d say that’s the single biggest factor we need to work on, and that’s why we’ve plussed-up the production here—to keep those crews out there.”