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Reaper extends range in Afghanistan

An MQ-9 Reaper equipped with an extended range modification from the 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron sits on the ramp at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 6, 2015. The ER modification allows for 20 to 40 percent additional flight time dependent on the aircraft's loadout. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)

An MQ-9 Reaper equipped with an extended range modification from the 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron sits on the ramp at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 6, 2015. The ER modification allows for 20 to 40 percent additional flight time dependent on the aircraft's loadout. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)

An MQ-9 Reaper from the 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron takes off on a sortie at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 6, 2015. The Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)

An MQ-9 Reaper from the 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron takes off on a sortie at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 6, 2015. The Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)

Senior Airman Christopher, 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron weapons load crew member, marshals an MQ-9 Reaper for end-of-runway checks at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 6, 2015. The Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)

Senior Airman Christopher, 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron weapons load crew member, marshals an MQ-9 Reaper for end-of-runway checks at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 6, 2015. The Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)

Senior Airman Christopher, 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron weapons load crew member, marshals an MQ-9 Reaper for end-of-runway checks at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 6, 2015. The Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)

Senior Airman Christopher, 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron weapons load crew member, marshals an MQ-9 Reaper for end-of-runway checks at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 6, 2015. The Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)

An MQ-9 Reaper equipped with an extended range modification from the 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron stops on the ramp at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, for end of runway checks, Dec. 6, 2015. The Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)

An MQ-9 Reaper equipped with an extended range modification from the 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron stops on the ramp at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, for end of runway checks, Dec. 6, 2015. The Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)

Airman 1st Class Devin, 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron aircraft specialist, puts away a power cable after preflight checks on an MQ-9 Reaper at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 6, 2015. The Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)

Airman 1st Class Devin, 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron aircraft specialist, puts away a power cable after preflight checks on an MQ-9 Reaper at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 6, 2015. The Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)

An MQ-9 Reaper equipped with an extended range modification from the 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron sits on the ramp at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 6, 2015. The ER modification allows for 20 to 40 percent additional flight time dependent on the aircraft's loadout. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)

An MQ-9 Reaper equipped with an extended range modification from the 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron sits on the ramp at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 6, 2015. The ER modification allows for 20 to 40 percent additional flight time dependent on the aircraft's loadout. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)

An MQ-9 Reaper equipped with an extended range modification from the 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron sits on the ramp at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 6, 2015. The ER modification allows for 20 to 40 percent additional flight time dependent on the aircraft's loadout. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)

An MQ-9 Reaper equipped with an extended range modification from the 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron sits on the ramp at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 6, 2015. The ER modification allows for 20 to 40 percent additional flight time dependent on the aircraft's loadout. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)

An MQ-9 Reaper equipped with an extended range modification from the 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron sits on the ramp at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 6, 2015. The ER modification allows for 20 to 40 percent additional flight time dependent on the aircraft's loadout. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)

An MQ-9 Reaper equipped with an extended range modification from the 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron sits on the ramp at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 6, 2015. The ER modification allows for 20 to 40 percent additional flight time dependent on the aircraft's loadout. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)

Tech. Sgt. Lawrence, 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron weapons load crew member, performs a weapons system check on an MQ-9 Reaper at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 6, 2015. The Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)
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Tech. Sgt. Lawrence, 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron weapons load crew member, performs a weapons system check on an MQ-9 Reaper at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 6, 2015. The Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)

Senior Airman Curtis, 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron weapons load crew member, replaces a cap on an MQ-9 Reaper at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 6, 2015. The Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)
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Senior Airman Curtis, 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron weapons load crew member, replaces a cap on an MQ-9 Reaper at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 6, 2015. The Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)

Master Sgt. George, 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron production superintendent, replaces a cap on an MQ-9 Reaper at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 6, 2015. The Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)
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Master Sgt. George, 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron production superintendent, replaces a cap on an MQ-9 Reaper at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 6, 2015. The Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)

An MQ-9 Reaper equipped with an extended range modification from the 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron sits on the ramp at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 6, 2015. The ER modification allows for 20 to 40 percent additional flight time dependent on the aircraft's loadout. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)
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An MQ-9 Reaper equipped with an extended range modification from the 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron sits on the ramp at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 6, 2015. The ER modification allows for 20 to 40 percent additional flight time dependent on the aircraft's loadout. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)

An MQ-9 Reaper equipped with an extended range modification from the 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron sits in a hanger at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 6, 2015. The ER modification allows for 20 to 40 percent additional flight time dependent on the aircraft's loadout. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)
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An MQ-9 Reaper equipped with an extended range modification from the 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron sits in a hanger at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 6, 2015. The ER modification allows for 20 to 40 percent additional flight time dependent on the aircraft's loadout. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)

An MQ-9 Reaper equipped with Gorgon Stare from the 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron takes off at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 5, 2015. The capability combines real-time situational awareness for strike coordination and reconnaissance, or cross-cueing other sensors, with persistent video recording for forensic analysis and pattern-of-life study. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)
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An MQ-9 Reaper equipped with Gorgon Stare from the 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron takes off at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 5, 2015. The capability combines real-time situational awareness for strike coordination and reconnaissance, or cross-cueing other sensors, with persistent video recording for forensic analysis and pattern-of-life study. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)

Airman 1st Class Tyler, 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron crew chief puts away a power cord after conducting preflight checks on an MQ-9 Reaper prior to a sortie at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 5, 2015. The Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)
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Airman 1st Class Tyler, 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron crew chief puts away a power cord after conducting preflight checks on an MQ-9 Reaper prior to a sortie at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 5, 2015. The Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)

Airman 1st Class Landon, 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron aircraft specialist, removes a power cable from an MQ-9 Reaper prior to a sortie at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 5, 2015. The Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)
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Airman 1st Class Landon, 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron aircraft specialist, removes a power cable from an MQ-9 Reaper prior to a sortie at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 5, 2015. The Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)

Airmen 1st Class Landon (left), 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron aircraft specialist and Tyler (right), 62nd ERS crew chief, preform preflight checks on an MQ-9 Reaper with Gorgon Stare for a sortie at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 5, 2015. The Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)
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Airmen 1st Class Landon (left), 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron aircraft specialist and Tyler (right), 62nd ERS crew chief, preform preflight checks on an MQ-9 Reaper with Gorgon Stare for a sortie at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 5, 2015. The Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)

Airman 1st Class Landon, 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron aircraft specialist, performs preflight checks on an MQ-9 Reaper equipped with Gorgon Stare prior to a sortie at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 5, 2015. Gorgon Stare provides day or night continuous broad-area motion imagery to find and fix targets within the field of view. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)
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Airman 1st Class Landon, 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron aircraft specialist, performs preflight checks on an MQ-9 Reaper equipped with Gorgon Stare prior to a sortie at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 5, 2015. Gorgon Stare provides day or night continuous broad-area motion imagery to find and fix targets within the field of view. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)

Tech. Sgt. Darren, 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron aircraft specialist, radios in the status of an MQ-9 Reaper before a sortie at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 5, 2015. The Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)
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Tech. Sgt. Darren, 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron aircraft specialist, radios in the status of an MQ-9 Reaper before a sortie at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 5, 2015. The Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)

Airmen from the 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron prepare a MQ-9 Reaper with an extended range modification for a sortie at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 5, 2015. The ER modification allows for 20 to 40 percent additional flight time dependent on the aircraft's loadout. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)
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Airmen from the 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron prepare a MQ-9 Reaper with an extended range modification for a sortie at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 5, 2015. The ER modification allows for 20 to 40 percent additional flight time dependent on the aircraft's loadout. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)

Senior Airman David, 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron aircraft specialist, secures a radio antenna on an MQ-9 Reaper prior to a sortie at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 5, 2015. The Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)
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Senior Airman David, 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron aircraft specialist, secures a radio antenna on an MQ-9 Reaper prior to a sortie at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 5, 2015. The Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)

Aircraft specialists from the 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron prepare a MQ-9 Reaper for a sortie at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 5, 2015. The Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)
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Aircraft specialists from the 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron prepare a MQ-9 Reaper for a sortie at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 5, 2015. The Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/Released)

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan --

(Editor’s Note: The last names of certain Airmen are withheld in accordance with operational security requirements)

The U.S. Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance enterprise is vital to the national security of the United States and its allies, providing an unrivaled capability; focused, integrated ISR is inseparable from operations and enables mission execution.

For the 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, efforts to increase those capabilities are in full swing after completing an extended range modification to nearly half of their fleet of MQ-9 Reapers and flying the first ever ER sortie in Afghanistan, Dec. 1, 2015.

The Reaper, a remotely piloted aircraft primarily designed for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance collection, can also perform close air support, combat search and rescue, precision strike and other critical functions, making it an indispensable tool.

Supporting one of the largest Reaper squadrons in the Air Force, maintainers at the 62nd ERS had a large task of completing the ER modification while the squadron continued to provide world-class close air support and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in the Afghanistan area of responsibility.

“All of our ER aircraft out here were boxed up, shipped out [from the U.S.], and between us and our General Atomics partners, we performed all the mods here in the AOR,” said Capt. Garrik, 62nd ERS maintenance operations officer. “One of the things that at our level we are really proud of here is that we did it on top of completing our regular flying schedule.”

The depot-level modification to their fleet took a mere month.

Now that the majority of the mods are complete, the 62nd ERS will increase their flight length capability by 20-to-40 percent depending upon the MQ-9’s loadout.

“ER gives us more time in the air, so pilots are able to stay on a certain area of interest for much longer,” said Capt. Mike, 62nd ERS aircraft and maintenance officer-in-charge. “Instead of having to come back, land and try to get another airplane out there, it allows the airplane to stay airborne longer.”

Although the reaper is primarily used as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets, it can also play a guardian angel role in the AOR. 

According to Mike, the squadron utilized the MQ-9 to find a U.S. vehicle that got separated from a convoy and lost in enemy territory.  Normally stopping for rest in a situation like that would have been catastrophic even after being awake for more than 18 hours. Instead the 62nd was able to communicate down and tell them to stop.

“We had aerial coverage of everything around them, locked, loaded and ready to go,” said Mike. “They were able to pull off on the side of the road and sleep knowing that the 62nd was over them. Not only do we go out and hunt for the bad guys, we’re out there when our troops are and playing guardian angel for them all the time.”

Although the amount combat air patrols has significantly decreased in Afghanistan, the impact of the 62nd ERS remains vital.

“We don’t have as many CAPs as we did 5 or 10 years ago, but we are at sustainable point right now are looking to increase CAPs here,” said Mike. “We’re still going to fly the same amount, but they will just be up for a longer duration. More airplanes in the sky at any point in time mean more eyes on target.”