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US MQ-9s execute new mission in Romania

The U.S. Air Force recently deployed MQ-9 Reaper aircraft and approximately 90 Airmen at the 71st Air Base in Campia Turzii, Romania, to conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions in support of NATO operations.

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US MQ 9s execute new mission in Romania Col. Leslie Hauck, 31st Operations Group commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Toby Roach, 31st OG superintendent, speak during an all call at Campia Turzii, Romania, Jan. 11, 2021. The U.S. Air Force has deployed MQ-9 Reaper aircraft and approximately 90 Airmen to the 71st Air Base at Campia Turzii to conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions in support of NATO operations (Picture source: US Air Force)

Among those Airmen are MQ-9 maintainers and launch and recovery aircrew from the 31st Expeditionary Operations Group, Detachment 1, who support Agile Combat Employment concepts, fly freedom of maneuver missions and integrate with joint and coalition forces in the region.

MQ-9 Airmen are responsible for providing dominant, persistent attack and reconnaissance capabilities while working with other U.S. Air Force assets. They also deploy overseas to operate and sustain the launch and recovery elements of these missions. Deploying overseas to launch the aircraft via a line-of-sight connection eliminates delay and provides real-time control over the aircraft as it begins and returns from missions.

Additionally, Airmen are playing a crucial role in installation development to establish an enduring U.S. military presence in Romania.

MQ-9 Reaper pilots and sensor operators stationed at Camp Turzii are skilled in takeoffs and landings and are one-half of two separate aircrews working together to successfully fly the MQ-9 Reaper aircraft.

Deployed maintainers specialize in the unique maintenance and support required for the MQ-9, with crew chiefs playing an integral role in ensuring the aircraft are safe to fly.

“As a crew chief, we unpack, assemble and maintain these MQ-9s,” said Staff Sgt. Rafael, a maintainer from the 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. “The unique part about being an MQ-9 crew chief is that, unlike most, we are hydraulic troops, engine troops and crew chiefs all in one.”

While many Airmen arrive at deployed locations that are established in regards to living conditions, security and having access to support functions, Airmen are starting from scratch to fly missions, build partnerships with allied nations and secure the area of responsibility.

“It’s remarkable to see the perseverance of these Airmen in the midst of not having what you’d normally have,” said Chief Master Sgt. Larry, 31st EOG, Det. 1. “They have faith that leadership will procure the things they need and are also patient and understanding as we make history being the first government-owned, government-operated MQ-9 contingent to fly in this country.”

To observe the progress made so far, Col. Leslie Hauck, the 31st Operations Group commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Toby Roach, the 31st OG superintendent, visited Campia Turzii for a base facilities and mission familiarization tour.

As technology is constantly changing and evolving, agility, deterrence and resiliency are essential to defense and operational capabilities, and aircraft such as the MQ-9 Reaper continue to provide combatant commanders with unblinking eyes and multi-role capabilities from the skies.

The MQ-9 Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily against dynamic execution targets and secondarily as an intelligence collection asset. Given its significant loiter time, wide-range sensors, multi-mode communications suite, and precision weapons -- it provides a unique capability to perform strike, coordination, and reconnaissance against high-value, fleeting, and time-sensitive targets.

Reapers can also perform the following missions and tasks: intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, close air support, combat search and rescue, precision strike, buddy-lase, convoy/raid overwatch, target development, and terminal air guidance. The MQ-9's capabilities make it uniquely qualified to conduct irregular warfare operations in support of combatant commander objectives.