(Valdosta Daily Times): Moody candidate for drone mission
WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said Thursday that Moody Air Force Base is one of five bases that remain in the running for a new mission that would bring 434 new jobs to Valdosta.
Out of an original pool of 19 bases, the U.S. Air Force is considering Moody Air Force Base for mission control and launch and recovery units in support of the new MQ-9 Reaper Remotely Piloted Aircraft Wing.
"I'm always excited by the potential to bring new missions to Georgia's military bases, and I am confident that Moody Air Force Base is fully prepared to take on this important mission," Isakson said in a press release. "The capabilities of the Air Force's new unmanned aircraft to identify and eliminate enemy targets as well as collect intelligence is a huge asset in our fight against global terror, and the control, launch and recovery mission elements are critical to its success. Moody is well positioned to accept this new mission, and our Valdosta community stands ready to welcome with open arms the military personnel and their families who would come with it."
"By being selected as one of the final five candidates for this new aircraft mission, Moody Air Force Base is confirming its status as a vital asset to our national defense and confirming that it is prepared to take on new missions," said congressional Rep. Austin Scott. "Moody not only has familiarity with similar mission sets and the necessary existing infrastructure in place but it also has a supportive local community in Valdosta, making the base a strong candidate to be chosen for this mission. I am honored to represent Moody Air Force Base and its surrounding defense community on the House Armed Services Committee and in Congress."
The MQ-9 Reaper is an unmanned armed aircraft, or drone, designed to operate at medium altitudes, often for extended periods of time. Weighing less than 4,000 pounds, the Reaper can be disassembled and loaded into a single container for worldwide deployment.
The Air Force characterizes the Reaper as a multi-mission system, with uses in intelligence gathering as well as its primary job, unmanned attacks. It has a cruising speed around 230 miles per hour with a range of 1,150 miles, the Air Force says.
Its armament can include Hellfire missiles, Paveway II laser-guided bombs and the GBU-38 kit which upgrades regular bombs to "smart" bomb levels, according to an Air Force fact sheet.
Reapers are now operated out of Creech Air Force Base in Nevada.
The other four bases in the running for the mission control unit are Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona, Mountain Home AFB in Idaho, Offutt AFB in Nebraska and Shaw AFB in South Carolina, according to the Air Force Times.
Air Combat Command will now conduct site surveys at all eight locations, with survey teams assessing each location against requirements, potential impacts to existing missions, infrastructure and manpower, the Air Force said in a press release. ACC will also develop cost estimates to bed down the planned units.
The Air Force will continue to evaluate the remaining five bases, reducing it down to two final locations early next year. Final decisions are expected in summer 2017 and the winter of 2018.