RIMPAC is underway for the Fighting 49ers

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Antonio Salfran
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs

For the last decade the MQ-9 Reaper has been the most requested asset in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, patrolling the skies during periods of conflict and heightened regional tensions.

Today, the Reapers are testing the waters in the largest maritime exercise in the world, Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022.

Adapting MQ-9 tactics for a maritime environment is a new challenge for the entire Reaper enterprise, and RIMPAC is the perfect platform to practice, explore and invent highly-important methods and skillsets.

"This is the first time Air Force MQ-9s have been invited to participate in RIMPAC," said U.S. Air Force Maj. Lee Todd, 49th Wing RIMPAC director of staff. "Our ultimate goal is to help other branches and militaries get up to speed on MQ-9 operations."

Throughout the exercise the MQ-9 Reapers will execute intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and close-air support missions in support of naval and special forces training operations. MQ-9 aircrews will also practice and hone air-to-surface engagement tactics with naval vessels that, until now, they've never been able to do.

"Participation in the RIMPAC exercise is helping us evolve," said U.S. Air Force Col. Steven Beattie, 49th Operations Group commander. "We're developing maritime and Pacific AOR expertise for our aircrew, maintenance and support personnel.”

Home to the Air Force’s largest MQ-9 Formal Training Unit, the benefits gained by the 49th Wing from this exercise extend beyond today’s MQ-9 pilots and sensor operators. RIMPAC will have a true and lasting impact on Airmen just beginning their Air Force career.

“Because CENTCOM has been the largest consumer of MQ-9 combat lines for the last decade, most of our cadre have had limited exposure to this new operating environment,” said Beattie. “This exercise provides joint integration opportunities in the maritime environment which cannot be replicated at Holloman AFB, and it helps us build airmanship in our students through daily mission planning and increased exposure to unfamiliar airspace.”

A cornerstone of RIMPAC is international and joint integration and interoperability; from leaders at the top to the Airmen on the flight line, Holloman Airmen have taken that charge and are leaning forward.

"My experience at RIMPAC so far has been incredible," said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Tyler Arbaugh, 49th Aircraft Maintenance Unit. "I am looking forward to working with our sister services and allied forces to experience first-hand what we are capable of as a nation and as a team."