432nd Air Wing Based At Nevada's Creech AFB
Aero-News has learned the US Air Force's first unmanned aircraft
systems wing stood up May 1 at Nevada's Creech Air Force Base.
"This is a monumental day for the Air Force," said Col.
Christopher Chambliss, who assumed commanded of the 432nd Air Wing.
"Having a wing dedicated to unmanned aircraft systems is a logical
and important step in continuing the Air Force's role in being the
world's greatest air and space power, and is equally critical to
the Air Force's most important customers, the American
The people of this wing have already proven themselves as key
players in the war on terrorism, said the colonel who came to
Creech AFB from Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, where he was the 366th
Fighter Wing vice commander. "It is a great honor to assume command
of such a fine group of Airmen as a new chapter in the 432nd is
opened," he said.
The reactivation of this wing is a historic event, but it
shouldn't be considered a starting point, the colonel
Forming an unmanned aircraft systems wing has been in the work
for about four years, according to Colonel Chambliss.
"The new wing is an evolution in the Air Force's UAS program and
provides the next step forward in medium- and high-altitude
unmanned air systems," he said.
The Air Force's UASs have been a critical asset to the US
military since Operation Iraqi Freedom began. UASs have been "an
unblinking eye that can pack a punch when necessary," said Colonel
Chambliss, referring to the MQ-1 Predator's intelligence,
surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities coupled with its
abilities to fire Hellfire missiles.
The MQ-9 Reaper is primarily a strike aerial, which has the
surveillance capabilities of a Predator, but can fly faster, at a
higher altitude and can carry almost 4,000 pounds of munitions. The
Predator is a medium-altitude UAS that can fly up to 25,000 feet.
The Reaper is able to fly up to 50,000 feet.
Both of these aircraft have the capability to find, track, and,
if necessary, eliminate an enemy threat. "Coupled with the skill
and experience of pilots from the world's most feared and respected
Air Force, these aircraft are two of the most sought after aerial
systems in combat," said Brig. Gen. William Rew, the 57th Wing
"Although this standup is a landmark achievement for the Air
Force and demonstrates our dedication to aiding the fight in the
war on terrorism, for those who use the Air Force's UAS assets on a
day-to-day basis -- the Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, and Airmen on
the ground, and even the pilots flying the MQ-1's and MQ-9's --
this transition of authority will seem transparent," said Lt. Gen.
Norman Seip, 12th Air Force commander.
"If yesterday we had flown 12 combat air patrols, then today the
same people would be flying in support of the deployed forces
throughout the world, the only difference being the patch on the
pilot's shoulder," said General Seip.
The 432nd wing has six operational squadrons, one maintenance
squadron, with six Reapers and 60 Predators. These squadrons are
projected to fly 75,000 hours this year, 85 percent being combat
operations, said Col. Eric Mathewson, who assumed command of the
432nd Operations Group. The Predator is currently being used in
Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom for intelligence surveillance
reconnaissance and tactical missions, flown by pilots and sensor
operators in the United States.
Originally, the 432nd Observation Group was established to train
cadre for new groups and wings. In 1954, it began training in
tactical reconnaissance and in 1958 was re-designated as a wing. In
1966, the wing was assigned to Udorn, Thailand, where it flew both
reconnaissance and tactical fighter missions over Southeast
In 1984, the 432nd was activated at Misawa Air Base, Japan. It
remained there until deactivation in October 1994.
(ANN salutes Airman 1st Class Ryan Whitney, 99th Air Base
Wing Public Affairs)