By Joe Ferguson and Carmen Duarte for Arizona Daily Star
Davis-Monthan Air Force Base is on the short list to become a new home base for drone pilots.
The Air Force announced Thursday that D-M is one of the five final possible locations for a new unit that will remotely pilot MQ-9 Reaper drones.
In December 2015, the Air Force announced that D-M was one of 19 potential locations for the new mission.
The Pentagon plans to retire a mainstay at D-M, the A-10 Thunderbolt II ground-attack jet, in 2022.
The Reaper conducts military missions around the world and has air-to-ground missiles, explained Ramón Valadez, a Pima County Supervisor. If D-M is selected, “the pilots will be located at D-M and control the aircraft from here. The drones would actually be in areas where there are air operations.”
The Air Force said other locations it is considering to control the Reaper include Moody Air Force Base in Georgia; Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho; Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska; and Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina.
The Air Force will also select a second location that is expected to have up to 24 MQ-9 aircraft assigned.
The Air Force will now begin to conduct site surveys at all of the potential locations.
Survey teams will assess each location against requirements, potential impacts to existing missions, infrastructure and manpower. They will also develop cost estimates to locate the planned units.
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