Monday, December 18, 2017

NY Air Guard MQ-9 operators deploy to assist in fight against California fires

MQ-9 Takes Flight Over Central New York
Syracuse, NY – A remotely piloted MQ-9 Reaper operated by the New York Air National Guard’s 174th Attack Wing flies a routine training mission over Central New York on October 23, 2016. The California Air National Guard has been using MQ-9s as an eye-in-the-sky to help firefighters focus their efforts in fighthing the massive Thomas Fire. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Master Sgt. Eric Miller/released)
Story by Eric Durr 
New York National Guard  

SYRACUSE, N.Y.-- Nine members of the New York Air National Guard’s 174th Attack Wing have been dispatched to California to assist the California Air National Guard’s 163rd Attack Wing in flying MQ-9 remotely piloted aircraft which have been assisting local authorities in fighting the massive Thomas Fire. 

The Airmen, who are based at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, are trained to fly and operate the MQ-9 remotely piloted aircraft which is used by the military for surveillance and combat air patrol missions.

The California Air National Guard has been employing the MQ-9 as an eye-in-the-sky and supporting Cal Fire and other state agencies responding to the wildfires which have burned 234,000 acres and destroyed more than 1000 buildings. 

The New York Airmen will assist California Air Guardsmen who have been stretched thin during this additional domestic response operation. 

According to Col. Michael Smith, the commander of the 174th Attack Wing, “That’s a horrible incident they are dealing with and we’re glad to help in any way we can.”

"New Yorkers always help their neighbors in their time of need and I thank the members of 174th Attack Wing for representing the very best of the Empire State spirit as they assist our friends in California," New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said. "As California works day and night to stop these fires, New York is proud to provide reinforcements and the use of advanced technology to help identify where to dispatch firefighting efforts to end this tragic event."

The MQ-9s have been providing overhead video to fire managers using sensors that can see through smoke. The aircraft fly at high altitudes and are not effected by high winds which can keep helicopters from operating over fire areas. They also have the ability to loiter over a given area for over 14 hours. 

This ability to orbit continuously over a geographic area provides the incident commander a much clearer picture of the situation and enables them to make better response decisions. 

The wing deployed three MQ-9 pilots, three sensor operators – the Airmen responsible for operating the state of the art cameras and other sensor systems—and three imagery analysts on Dec. 13. The Airmen are due to return to New York on Dec. 22.

The 174th Attack Wing has been operating the MQ-9 since 2009. Unit members train U.S. Air Force and allied personnel in MQ-9 flight and maintenance operations. The wing’s Airmen also regularly fly MQ-9s on combat and training missions from a control center at Hancock Field.

This will be the first time the wing has deployed its MQ-9 resources in support of civil authorities.