JULY 14, 2017, BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (AFNS) – As the use of unmanned aircraft systems rises across the world, researchers from around the Defense Department are testing new ways to counter the new threats they could present with a new counter-unmanned aircraft systems program.
The 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron teamed up with a researcher from the Air Force Research Laboratory to teach Airmen how to pilot drones and use them to train coalition forces on how to react to them on the battlefield.
“This is a brand new program for the 455th AEW, where we are able to test our counter-UAS systems coming into BAF, in addition to running base-wide exercises,” said 1st. Lt. Ryan Wilkerson, a researcher attached to the 455th ESFS.
Wilkerson, who is not a defender by trade, is deployed out of the AFRL, Rome Research Site, New York, and came to test the program at Bagram Airfield, where the challenge is present in real-world scenarios.
A few defenders assisted Wilkerson, serving as drone pilots and using their own down time to practice piloting and learn tactics the enemy may use.
“It’s exciting to be able to pilot these aircraft for a program no one has ever been a part of before,” said Senior Airman Christopher Gallman, with the 455th ESFS joint defense operations center. “I can’t wait to see where it is going and to be able to help out the total force.”
The drone pilots wear aviator sunglasses and have an aura of swagger around them, as they take pride in being at the forefront of tactical development.
“It’s fun and enjoyable, and knowing how beneficial it is to not only the base, but all of the force, makes flying the drone worth doing,” Gallman said.
Training never ends, and while service members train to deploy, training still continues while deployed.
“This allows us to be better prepared,” Wilkerson said. “The best way to train is to actually put something in the air and see how people react. We train how we fight, so this is the most efficient way to counter this growing concern amongst coalition partners.”
Tactics used by the enemy are constantly evolving, which is why Airmen are constantly adapting to face threats head-on, ready to engage anything that comes their way.
By Staff Sgt. Benjamin Gonsier, 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs