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982nd MXS to create new Reaper trainer

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Vernon Cunningham
  • 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs
Members of the 982nd Maintenance Squadron are making progress to create the only trainer available for MQ-9 Reaper maintenance personnel to practice weapon loading and various other functions.

The 982nd MXS was asked by Headquarters ACC to convert a crashed MQ-9 Reaper into this new tool after the squadron successfully created the first MQ-1 Predator trainer and deployed it for use at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.

"ACC knew we could (create the MQ-9 Reaper trainer) because we actually volunteered to do it for the MQ-1 aircraft," said Joseph Mahon, 982nd MXS engineering supervisor. "This is two-thirds bigger than the MQ-1. But, when they asked us if we had the facilities to do this one, we said yes."

The maintenance personnel immediately identified at least one definite challenge facing them while repairing and converting the crashed Reaper.

"After this one crashed, there were only two 7,000 pound aircraft left," said Mr. Mahon.  "They are only making 10,000 pound birds now, a bigger version with a thicker body. So there were no available spare parts. If we needed something then we had to go out to the bigger craft, get our dimensions, come back, make the part and then fit it to this aircraft."

He said the maintenance and fabrication shops had to create a lot of their own parts to fix multiple areas on the Reaper just get it stable enough for conversion.

"All of the landing gear was busted," he said. "They fixed all the mounting points on the aircraft and hard parts were put on the landing gear so it will stand on its own."

Various other integral parts, such as pylons and the propeller, are being made out of plastic by the 982nd MXS fabrication shop, said Mr. Mahon.

The fully converted MQ-9 Reaper is going to be used for weapons training at Creech AFB, Nev., said Mr. Mahon.

"It is going to have a hollow shell with no avionics, wiring or anything else," he said. "It is mostly to let them train putting the hellfire missiles on the Reaper, taking them off and doing the 'safe for maintenance' on the weapons. We are going to add some switches."

Mr. Mahon said the 982nd MXS is working to create an instructor control console for the MQ-9 Reaper trainer which will allow instructors to insert faults into the aircraft during training. The MQ-1 Predator's instructor control console currently has 62 faults that can be inserted into it, he said.

At the current pace, the 982nd MXS is projected to have the first MQ-9 Reaper trainer ready for use within the next six months.

A field training detachment is being set up at Syracuse, N.Y., for maintenance on the MQ-9 Reaper and the 982nd MXS will be building all the trainers.