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New hangar for drones gives 174th Attack Wing permanent home at Fort Drum

A new hangar built for the 174th Attack Wing based out of Hancock Field in Syracuse gives the wing a permanent home at Fort Drum.
Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - A new hangar built for the 174th Attack Wing based out of Hancock Field in Syracuse gives the wing a permanent home at Fort Drum.

The hangar at Fort Drum allows members of the maintenance operation to work with two of the MQ9 Reaper drones the 174th Attack Wing stores there.

“They really enjoy doing it and when you build appropriate facilities, it shows commitment to the mission and the aircraft and the people who do the mission," said Major General Verle Johnston, Commander, with the New York Air National Guard.

"This compound will ensure we provide realistic training for all of the aircrew members that go through our schoolhouse,” said Lt. Col. Michael Smith, Commander with the 174th Maintenance Group. “This is critical based on the fact when they roll out of here they jump right into combat and our flying missions supporting our ground troops overseas."

The army base is 70 miles north of the wings home base in Syracuse, but 174th Attack Wing officials say the drive is worth it for what the base provides to the mission.

The 174th Attack Wing has already flown the aircraft thousands of hours from Fort Drum.

"The remotely piloted aircraft are right next to the restricted area and training areas so its very efficient to launch the planes off and get right into the training area and not have a long distance to traverse to get into the training area," Major General Johnston said.

"As we put the aircrew through the training where they drop either live or inert munitions and we don't do that out of Syracuse, so we'll always have airplanes up here to be able to do that," said Col. Greg Semmel, Commander with the 174th Attack Wing.

The 174th Attack Wing is currently only flying the MQ9 Reaper drones out of Fort Drum because it’s the only spot in New York State they can operate them, utilizing the Army's restricted airspace in the area.

Plans are well in motion by the 174th Attack Wing to begin flying the MQ9 Reaper drones out of Hancock Field in Syracuse.

The only obstacle they still face is FAA approval.

"I see it happening within the next couple of years at least, but it will take some time and justifiably so, we want to make sure we do it safe, to integrate into the airspace down around Syracuse," Col. Semmel said.

The FAA did give approval for the wing to fly MQ9 Reapers drones in the Syracuse area, specifically over Onondaga, Oswego and Madison counties this summer. But the wing has to launch them out of Fort Drum.

The New York Air National Guard says the drones are not armed and aren't used for surveillance.

New York Air National Guard officials say the army base will always have a place with the 174th Attack Wing and the Reaper program, but they are anxious to expand so they can fly the machines out of Syracuse.

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