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Shaw Air Force Base to be home of drone wing that could create hundreds jobs

Shaw Air Force Base will be the home of a new Air Force wing of remotely piloted aircraft, commonly known as drones.

On Wednesday, Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson approved Shaw Air Force Base for a new MQ-9 Reaper Group, including mission control elements, according to the Air Force.

The Reapers are remotely piloted aircraft capable of surveillance and combat strikes.

The wing could could carry 1,000 or more jobs an Air Force spokesman told The State in 2017.

Shaw was selected as the “preferred” location last year, according to the Air Force, saying it was waiting for the full results of an environmental impact assessment. Wednesday, the Air Force released the finding of no significant impact.

“This announcement is a positive step in the right direction when it comes to Shaw AFB receiving a new MQ-9 Reaper group,” U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said in 2017.

The new MQ-9 Reaper wing would control from the United States remote aircraft flying combat strikes in Afghanistan and the Middle East, as well as other missions around the world. The aircraft are known as “hunter-killers” and can carry a wide range of ordnance such as missiles and machine guns.

The Air Force frowns on the term “drone” because the MQ-9 is a propeller-driven, fixed wing aircraft that doesn’t hover. It is about the same size as a civilian Cessna airplane.

Shaw is already home to 20th Fighter Wing, the nation’s largest F-16 fighter jet wing and Ninth Air Force.

Staff writer Jeff Wilkinson contributed to this report.

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