EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – An MQ-9 Reaper has been launched using a Portable Aircraft Control Station, demonstrating the potential to place the platform wherever the mission requires persistent airpower, the 53rd Wing has announced.
The 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron, in partnership with the 432d Wing, conducted the first launch of an MQ-9 Reaper using the Portable Aircraft Control Station, or PACS, at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, July 12-13, 2022.
PACS allows a ground team to complete the aircraft startup sequence without the line-of-sight Launch and Recovery (LR) cockpit or flight crew present. The ground team hands control to aircrew in a remote cockpit, who in turn taxis and takes off, the 53rd Wing said in a statement.
“The ability to gain control of the aircraft directly from downrange maintenance personnel without any deployed aircrew or line-of-sight requirements continues to reduce our forward footprint and increase the MQ-9’s agility,” said Lt. Col. Michael Chmielewski, 556th TES commander.
“The system automates the aircraft power-up and engine start sequences that aircrew typically conduct for launches. Experienced maintainers also gain efficiencies from PACS for a variety of maintenance functions.”
According to the 53rd Wing, the initial PACS success, combined with the recent gains in Valiant Shield that leveraged the advances in aircraft software and automated takeoff and land capability (ATLC) over satellite-only communication, continue to display the potential to place the platform wherever the mission requires persistent airpower.
When fielded and fully mission capable, PACS has the potential to replace the Ruggedized Aircraft Maintenance Test Stand (RAMTS). This change will further reduce the deployed logistics and manning footprint currently required to employ MQ-9s, the 53rd Wing said.
Ultimately, PACS will eliminate the requirement for a downrange LR cockpit and flight crew for MQ-9 deployment, increasing the agility of the MQ-9, according to the statement.
By Capt. Savanah Bray, 53rd Wing