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Here’s what Reaper drones are doing at March Air Reserve Base

By in Press Enterprise on June 15, 2017

By Mark Muckenfuss

Riverside area residents have gotten used to seeing the U.S. military’s second largest plane — the C-17 Globemaster III — lift off from March Air Reserve Base, where nine of the massive cargo jets are stationed.

Those same residents may not have noticed that in the past month, one of the smallest planes used by the military began sharing that runway.

Six MQ-9 Reapers, the same unmanned drones that troll the skies over Afghanistan, Iraq and other nations in conflict, are now based at March. The planes were moved from the Southern California Logistics Airport — the former George Air Force Base — in Victorville, where they have been used for training drone pilots since 2006. The computer equipment used to fly the planes was moved along with them.

On Wednesday, officials with the Air National Guard’s 163rd Attack Wing celebrated the arrival of the planes with a ribbon cutting in a refurbished hangar that will house the MQ-9s.

Col. Dan Hessheimer said the drones will still do training flights over the eastern portion of Edwards Air Force Base, as they did when they were based in Victorville. But flying them out of March will make it easier on his personnel, especially in terms of travel time.

“It was taking up three hours of their day,” Hessheimer said. With the relocation of the drones and the training schoolhouse, “we can fly longer missions. One of the highest priorities is pilot production. This allows us to produce more pilots.”

The relocation also adds another important element to the role March plays in the Air Force’s mission, he said, that “will help to sort of BRAC-proof the base.”

Hessheimer was referring to the base realignment and closure acts Congress periodically enacts. March was downsized from an Air Force base to an Air Reserve base in the 1990s due to […]    

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