KRISTIN M. HALL Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Air National Guard’s 118th Airlift Wing based in Nashville has flown all types of aircraft in its long history — from fighter planes to transport and cargo planes. But their new mission signals a larger shift in the Air Force to unmanned aircraft and cyber security.
Under a restructuring plan, the Air Force announced earlier this year the unit’s C-130 transport planes would be replaced with MQ-9 Remote Piloted Aircraft, also known as the Reaper drone. The plan also calls for the 118th Wing to get a cyber-security unit and expand their intelligence squadron.
The changes coming to the unit based at the Nashville International Airport reflect post 9/11 shifts in the Air Force to place an emphasis on using the latest technology for gathering intelligence and surveillance.
The unit employs about 1,200 personnel. About a third are full-time National Guard members and the remainder are traditional, part-time Guard positions, according to Col. Chuck Echols, base commander for the 118th Airlift Wing.