U.S. Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 764 Aviation provided ground resupply to a remotely piloted MQ-9 Reaper drone from the California Air National Guard’s 163rd Attack Wing during Integrated Training Exercise 4 -22 at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center, Twenty-nine Palms, Calif., July 20-21, 2022.
Airmen from the 163rd Strike Wing integrated with Marine Air-Ground Task Force 23 to provide close air support during the Fire Support Coordination Exercise, which tests a MAGTF’s ability to conduct a coordinated complex of several fire resources in support of maneuver forces.
It was the first time that US Air Force MQ-9 Reapers had been refueled from a common platform and only the second time that an MQ-9 had received fuel from another aircraft, according to Maj. U.S. Air Force Shanna Ream, deputy director of operations for the 163rd Attack Wing. The training also allowed the 163rd Attack Wing to practice “Reaper ACE,” or “agile combat employment,” which moves operations from centralized physical infrastructure to a network of smaller, dispersed sites.
Ream explained that the MQ-9 depended on a large overseas footprint to launch and recover the aircraft. The Joint Force is unlikely to have the capability to establish large overseas airbases in future conflicts, requiring adaptation in the use of the MQ-9 platform.
“Working with the Marine Corps is very important because the Marine Corps just acquired the MQ-9. So a lot of those tactics and techniques and procedures…we’re helping develop that.” U.S. Air Force Maj. Shanna Ream, 163rd Attack Wing Deputy Director of Operations
“Now we’re making it expeditionary where we can jump to different spots with a very small footprint, refuel, rearm, get back in the air and keep supporting,” Ream said.
This training and integration is critical for both the Air Force and Marine Corps as the services continue to seek ways to be more agile, lethal, and expeditionary. The Marine Corps is also purchasing the MQ-9 and will be looking at ways to operate the aircraft with as small a footprint as possible in support of Force Design 2030.
Photo taken by Sgt. Matthew Teutsch
A U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper with the 163rd Attack Wing, California Air National Guard, refuels during Integrated Training Exercise 4-22 at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center, Twenty -nine Palms, Calif., July 20, 2022. The MQ-9 Reaper received fuel via aviation delivered ground refueling from an MV-22 Osprey with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 764, marking the first time the MQ-9 received fuel from a common asset and the first time an Air National Guard MQ-9 received fuel from another aircraft. The MQ-9 Reaper provided close air support to Marine Air-Ground Task Force 23 during its execution of the ITX Fire Support Coordination Exercise as the Marine Corps Reserve continues to work to integrate with sister services in preparation for future operations.
“Working with the Marine Corps is very important because the Marine Corps just acquired the MQ-9. So a lot of those tactics and techniques and procedures…we’re helping develop that,” Ream said.
The 163rd Attack Wing has participated in integrated training exercises in the past, but had not integrated at this level, receiving air-delivered ground resupply, coordinating with F/A-18s of the US Marine Corps and directly supporting ground maneuver forces.
As the Marine Corps Reserve continues to work toward the goals established in Force Design 2030, integration with the Joint Forces will continue to be a priority in future training exercises.