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89th Attack Squadron showcases the MQ-9 at Ellsworth

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Dylan Maher
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

Communities surrounding Ellsworth got “close and personal” with an operational MQ-9 Reaper during an open house event at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, May 1, 2024.

The 89th Attack Squadron, a tenant unit at Ellsworth, coordinated with Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, to fly and land the MQ-9 here for display.

While the MQ-9 is manned by rated pilots, enlisted aircrew members, and mission coordinators from a remote location, it’s not commonplace for the 89th ATKS to actually see the aircraft beyond what the image sensors pick up.

“Due to the nature of our mission and our aircraft operating downrange, most people outside the installation are unaware of our presence,” said Capt. Zachary Othon, 89th ATKS MQ-9 pilot. “It’s awesome that we’re part of Ellsworth and be able to garner their support in organizing this event.”

Ellsworth Airmen and their families got to “pet the jet” and interact with the 89th Attack Squadron, providing them tangibility and exposure to what the MQ-9 offers.

The MQ-9 Reaper is part of a remotely piloted aircraft system, equipped with operations and maintenance crews for deployed 24-hour missions. To make the five-hour journey from Holloman AFB, the MQ-9 relied on effective coordination between personnel, visual information and satellite technologies.

“Communication was the biggest key with the aircraft and made the swift handover of satellite controls to Ellsworth possible,” said Master Sergeant Julius Castillo, 29th Aircraft Maintenance unit production superintendent from Holloman AFB. “Our team enjoys travelling to different base installations, giving our Airmen the opportunity to share their roles and responsibilities with the MQ-9.”

Mission sets for the MQ-9 can range from intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, close air support, combat search and rescue, precision-strike, buddy-lase, convoy and raid overwatch, route clearance, target development and terminal air guidance.

Not only is the presence of the MQ-9 at Ellsworth new to the local community; the event has proven monumental for Air Force Global Strike Command.

“This is the first time that we’ve taken an MQ-9 and landed it at an Air Force Global Stike Command base,” said Lt. Col. Eric Bliss, 89th ATKS commander. “As we are considered a geographically separated unit, most of these aircraft are either downrange in combat commands all across the world, or they’re mostly out of other Air Force base installations, so we’re thrilled to showcase the importance of what our team is doing and share it with their families.”