Shaw Air Force Base has been named the “preferred” location for the mission control functions of a new MQ-9 Reaper wing. The Reapers are remotely piloted aircraft capable of surveillance and combat strikes.
A full environmental analysis will be conducted at Shaw before a final decision is made. Four other bases – Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, Moody Air Force Base in Georgia, Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho; and Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska – were named as reasonable alternatives and will be considered as part of an environmental impact analysis, according to an Air Force news release.
“Shaw AFB was selected because it was the best option to help us diversify assignment opportunities for personnel within the MQ-9 enterprise, provide increased opportunities for leadership from within the community, and provide flexibility to enhance integration with other organizations and capabilities,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said in the release.
If Shaw is ultimately selected, the first of 400 pilots assigned to the new group are expected to begin arriving in fiscal year 2018.
A spokesman for U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said the environmental study is a formality.
“This announcement is a positive step in the right direction when it comes to Shaw AFB receiving a new MQ-9 Reaper group,” Graham said in a news release.
In addition to this action, Shaw also is under consideration to host another MQ-9 wing that includes up to 24 MQ-9s, launch and recovery elements, a mission control element, a maintenance group and support personnel.