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Air Force announces basing candidates for an active-duty Air Force MQ-1/9 remote split operations squadron

by Ann Stefanek
Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

10/20/2011 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Air Force officials announced today Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.; Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii; and Shaw AFB, S.C. as the candidate bases for one active-duty Air Force MQ-1/9 Remote Split Operations Squadron.

The list of candidate bases was approved by Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz.

These bases are now candidates to accept a single active-duty MQ-1/9 RSO squadron consisting of 280 personnel and associated equipment. No remotely-piloted aircraft will be assigned to the base under this action, only a ground control station.

The Department of Defense identified the MQ-1/9 as one of the key Air Force capabilities in the current fight and for national defense.

"The Air Force is doing everything necessary to institutionalize the vital capabilities provided by MQ-1/9 within the Air Force," said Kathleen Ferguson, the Air Force deputy assistant secretary for installations. "The strategic basing process will help identify which location is best suited to link this important mission with combatant commander requirements."

The primary mission of an MQ-1/9 RSO squadron is to execute MQ-1/9 Predator/Reaper aircraft operations that conduct close-air support, air interdiction, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, among others.

Under this concept, a launch and recovery element launches a remotely piloted aircraft via line-of-sight operations from one location, typically from outside the United States, and the RSO squadron controls the aircraft remotely from a United States-based ground control station operating beyond line-of-sight.

"The Air Force uses a standardized, deliberate, repeatable and transparent process to address our basing needs," Ferguson explained. "These candidate bases will be analyzed to determine which location will best host this mission."

Air Combat Command officials will begin conducting detailed, on-the-ground evaluations of the candidate bases covering a range of operational and facility requirements. The results of the surveys will be briefed to the secretary of the Air Force and Air Force chief of staff, who will then select a preferred alternative.

Based on the results of these efforts, officials expect to announce the preferred alternative in December 2011.

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