AUGUST 8, 2022 – When it comes to MQ-9 pilot training, it’s important that students understand how to properly execute scenarios that could happen in the real world.
The 16th Training Squadron is the lead producer of MQ-9 pilots and sensor operators. They have been active on Holloman since 2009, graduating more than 600 students annually. The high standards in training ensure that Reaper pilots and sensor operators are prepared for real world conflicts or operations.
Since 2009 the 16th TRS trains all of the pilots and sensor operators on Holloman. “We graduate more students than any other formal training unit. We have a lot of sensor operators and students ranging from airman basic up to lieutenant colonel,” said Lt. Col. Dustin Barbour, 16th TRS director of operations. The training that students go through is a combination of both academics and hands on learning through simulated missions.
Before graduating, MQ-9 pilots and sensor operators must go through four phases of training over the course of three months.
First is the transition phase where they learn the flight basics of an MQ-9, the ins and outs of using the sensors and procedures for in flight emergencies.
Next they go into the basic surface attack phase, which takes what they learned and employs weapons into their learning. After the BSA phase they undergo the kill chain phase where all their training is put together within the MQ-9 simulators with minimal instructor guidance.
The final phase of training is the advanced kill chain phase where the students combine previously learned skills with the addition of a mission scenario. After getting a mission scenario, the pilot and sensor operator must construct a mission brief and present it to their instructors.
“What I think the 16th TRS does really well is they consolidate effort to the students through the simulators,” said Nicholas Pisciotta, 16th TRS sensor operator instructor. “As we keep going through iterations of the course we’re moving in a direction that is more simulator heavy and the 16th TRS has been a good center point for that effort.”
The 16th TRS does a lot of behind the scenes to continually improve the training, in addition to training the MQ-9 pilots and sensor operators.
They are also responsible for managing all of their students, maintaining the simulators, training future instructors for the 16th TRS and more.
“I think the 16th TRS plays a key role on Holloman by taking students from the 6th, 9th and 29th Attack Squadrons and centralizing the training in this building with the simulators,” said 2nd Lieutenant Andrew Evenson, 16th TRS remotely piloted aircraft student pilot.
Story by Airman 1st Class Nicholas Paczkowski
49th Wing Public Affairs