FORT IRWIN, Calif. The National Training Center and Fort Irwin, Calif., conducted a groundbreaking ceremony Jan. 12 for a facility that will support a unit that operates Army unmanned aircraft systems.
The complex will provide a headquarters for Bravo Company, 229th Aviation Regiment, and house a fleet of 12 MQ-1C Gray Eagle unmanned aircraft. The unit known as the “Flying Tigers” has operated Gray Eagles since it was reactivated at Fort Irwin in 2014. The unit is organized under the 2916th Aviation Battalion, 916th Support Brigade, and is deployed.
After being reestablished, Soldiers of Bravo Company began their training and flying Gray Eagles from temporary structures located in a remote area of the Goldstone NASA complex, a neighbor of the NTC in the Mojave Desert. Within a year, the Flying Tigers were ready to deploy for real-world missions and supporting combatant commanders.
At the ceremony, NTC and Fort Irwin Commander Maj. Gen. Joseph Martin said the most important aspect of the multipartnership construction project is the impact it will have on the Soldiers of the unit. Their proficiency as UAS operators is tied directly to the training they conduct.
“They are there doing what they’re doing with the training that was built on a foundation that was built right here with this temporary facility,” Martin said.
The general said the Flying Tigers’ equipment and aircraft is world-class. He quoted the unit’s battalion commander when describing the MQ-1C Gray Eagle by saying, “It can fly almost a day without landing, carries four Hellfire missiles, and it can watch and count the change you pull out of your pocket.”
“It’s an incredible capability, but it takes a bunch of training,” Martin said. “So, we’re going to give them a world-class facility to maintain their equipment in, to train with their equipment in and operate in — and that’s a first of its kind in the Army.”
The new facility will include a 52,000 square-foot hangar, repair shops, company administration offices, aircraft container storage and vehicle parking, said Col. Kirk Gibbs, commander of the Los Angeles District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, whose office is providing project management.
Gibbs said the new construction is part of a long history the USACE has with the NTC and Fort Irwin.
“We continue to provide world-class facilities, such as the new hospital and the water treatment plant project among many other things that are currently ongoing,” Gibbs said. “We’ve also had projects here that provide our Soldiers with quality training facilities downrange or in ‘the box.’ All of these share a common goal — that’s to provide our Soldiers with quality facilities commensurate with the quality of their service and this facility is definitely going to live up to that.”
Gibbs stressed that the project supports an USACE campaign plan goal of supporting national security by delivering innovative, resilient and sustainable solutions to the Department of Defense and the nation.
The site is scheduled to be completed by the fall of 2017.