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NEWS | Sept. 11, 2019

New system lets Syracuse MQ-9s fly without chase planes

By Master Sgt. Barbara Olney New York National Guard

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Remotely piloted MQ-9 aircraft flying into and out of Syracuse International Airport no longer fly with piloted airplanes, thanks to the installation of a military Ground-Based Detect and Avoid Radar system.

The system, employed by the New York Air National Guard's 174th Attack Wing, allows for safer and more effective training missions flown by the wing's MQ-9 Reaper aircraft.

"This radar system enhances the safety of the wing's MQ-9 aircraft and helps prevent collisions with commercial air traffic," said New York Air National Guard Col. Michael Smith, 174th attack wing commander.

The system is the first of its kind for the Department of Defense operations of MQ-9 aircraft and a potential template for other airports or military installations using remotely piloted aircraft, Smith said.

The MQ-9 had required an escort from a manned Civil Air Patrol airplane while transitioning up to and from 18,000 feet.

The restrictions inhibited aircrew training and flexibility to respond with aircraft quickly during federal or state missions, requiring unplanned Civil Air Patrol flights when unscheduled flights were needed.

The new system not only eliminates the escort requirement but adds flexibility and efficiency to all MQ-9 training missions, Smith said.

It uses existing radars to locate nearby aircraft, including those not tracked by FAA systems, according to the system developers at the Lincoln Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Data from these radars are processed and prioritized to issue alerts to remote MQ-9 pilots to compute optimal avoidance maneuvers.

The 174th Attack Wing provides more than 4,000 flight training hours each year to qualify pilots and sensor operators. The wing also trains all MQ-9 maintenance technicians for the Air Force, Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve.