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Americans, British long-time partners united in Operation Enduring Freedom

by Staff Sgt. Alexandria Mosness
Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs

8/29/2012 - KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (AFNS) -- The 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron has a unique role where Airmen from the British Royal Air Force and the U.S. work together to support the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission for Operation Enduring Freedom.

The primary mission of the 62nd is to launch and recover remotely piloted aircraft before handing over control to other locations in the United States such as Creech Air Force Base, Nev., or Cannon Air Force Base, N.M.

The crews use satellite feeds which allow the transfer of control between the pilots at Kandahar Airfield, and the crews stationed in the United States.

"Our mission is to perform take off and landings, and then we hand over the controls to aircrew in the CONUS (Continental United States)," said Lt. Col. Russ, 62nd ERS commander. "One strength of RPAs is the great reach back capability. The aircraft can be controlled from home station for the majority of the mission. The landing and take offs must be performed in theater through line-of-sight antennas because there is a small delay with the satellite links that would be unsafe for these critical phases of flight."

The squadron works with two different types of RPAs, the MQ-9 Reaper and MQ-1 Predator.

The Reaper and Predator are armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long endurance remotely piloted aircraft employed primarily as intelligence collection assets and secondarily in a hunter/killer role against dynamic execution targets.

They are part of unmanned aircraft systems, which consists of more than just the aircraft. The aircraft would not be able fly without the people on the ground. They require pilots, enlisted aircrew members to operate sensors, intelligence personnel, weapons and maintenance crews and specialized communications personnel to operate the satellite data links.

Although the aircraft are not manned, the safety procedures are similar to those of a manned aircraft.

"A pilot of a manned aircraft does their walk around of the aircraft before jumping in the cockpit, the Reaper and Predator pilot does a walk around before jumping into the ground control station," said Russ.

Throughout the 62 ERS, a British or American Airman can fill in wherever needed.

"There are dozens of people in the loop," the commander said. "We operate as a single crew force. We are completely integrated. About 15 percent of my crews are British. They take on the same supervisory roles as the Americans. The operation superintendent can be a British pilot but the aircrew he is supervising can all be U.S. personnel. It is no different. They all follow the same rules. We are all one group who work together."

The Americans and the British don't just work together in the area of operation, but also back in the United States where the British have a squadron at Creech, the 39 Squadron.

"When the Brits join us back home, they are one of us," said Capt. Michael Bosack, 62nd Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Unit maintenance officer in charge. "Being out here, in the Coalition fight effort, is truly unique. If someone would have asked me what I would have been doing ten years ago, I don't think I'd be able to say that I would be working alongside our British partners serving to secure freedom in Afghanistan."

As the U.S. Airmen realize the great chance they have by working with their sister nation, the RAF Airmen also recognize the occasion they have been afforded.

"It has been a good opportunity to work with different nations," said Royal Air Force Flying officer Dan. "We are two very similar forces but have different ways of operating."

"They are a good bunch of guys," said Staff Sgt. Jesse, sensor operator. "They are just as capable as any pilot. It has been a good experience. It has shown a different perspective with the different nationalities. I never thought I would be working with the RAF. These pilots have taught me a lot. They are very well experienced pilots."
Working with the British has not only taught the U.S. Airmen about the RAF, but also shown it doesn't matter what nationality one is - they're all fighting the same enemy.

"Operating with different nationalities opens up everybody," Jesse said. "You get to know more about your fellow comrades and how we all fight the same way in this war."

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