The Air Force plans to look for candidate bases to host a possible new MQ-9 Reaper wing with units of the remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) housed at up to two locations, officials announced Tuesday.
Only active-duty Air Force bases in the continental United States, Alaska and Hawaii that do not currently have an MQ-9 wing are eligible to host one of the units, according to a news release.
The Air Force first will identify a location to host an operations group with mission control elements. To be considered, candidates must have an active-duty flying wing or group that performs at least one core RPA mission or is co-located with an active-duty distributed ground system. MQ-9 crews will fly the MQ-9 from these locations but no aircraft will be associated with these units.
A second potential location may host a full MQ-9 wing that will include a launch and recovery element and a mission control element. This installation needs at least an 8,000-foot runway and is expected to house 24 MQ-9s.
After identifying candidate bases, survey teams from Air Combat Command will assess each site against requirements, potential impacts to existing missions, infrastructure and manpower. They will also develop cost estimates to bed down the units, according to the release.
The basing criteria will focus on mission requirements — runway length for the launch and recovery mission and synergies between common missions with existing units — capacity, environmental requirements and cost factors.
The Air Force plans to identify candidate installations during the summer and preferred alternatives by early 2017. The secretary of the Air Force will make final basing decisions after an environmental analysis is complete.