Air Guard MQ-9 unit drops first-ever GPS/INS guided munition at Lithuanian range

  • Published
  • By Jon Dahms
  • 111th Attack Wing

The Pennsylvania Air National Guard’s 111th Operations Group dropped the first-ever Global Positioning System/Inertial Navigation System-guided munition on May 15, 2023 at an air-to-ground training range in Kazlu Ruda, Lithuania.

The 111th OG, a subordinate unit of the 111th Attack Wing at Biddle Air National Guard Base in Horsham, Pennsylvania, was participating in the Iron Wolf 23-1 Exercise, a multinational military exercise, which started in Lithuania on May 8, 2023.

"This remarkable accomplishment showcases our commitment to interoperability and our desire to continue building the capabilities of our Lithuanian partners,” said Col. Lynn M. Lee, 111th OG Commander. “By participating in joint offensive and defensive operations during the Iron Wolf Exercise alongside our Lithuanian counterparts and NATO allies, we reinforce our collective readiness and further the security and stability of the region."

The Pennsylvania National Guard and Lithuania have been partner nations for more than 30 years through the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program.

The two-week exercise involved approximately 3,500 troops and 600 pieces of military equipment from Lithuania and other NATO countries, including Belgium, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Norway, Portugal, Luxembourg, Poland, the Netherlands, Norway, the UK, and the US, the Lithuanian Armed Forces said.

During the exercise, the NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup deployed in Lithuania, and units of the Lithuanian Iron Wolf Infantry Brigade, trained for joint offensive and defensive operations. Lithuanian Armed Forces focused on transporting troops, vehicles and equipment from Lithuania to Poland by road, rail, and air.

The 111th OG participated in the exercise, providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support, as well as close air support to troops on the ground.

The aircrew that flew the MQ-9 and employed the GPS/INS-guided GBU-38 inert munition was located at Biddle ANG Base and included pilot 2nd Lt. Nicole Gansert, sensor operator Airman 1st Class Jeremy Disabato, and Staff Sgt. Kayla Kelemen, Mission Intelligence Coordinator. The aircrew was supported by weather and communication personnel, and four 111th OG members in Lithuania serving as Liaison Officers for the exercise.

At first, Gansert said she was more focused on mission details than the historical significance of the event.

“I was working with limited information before it took place,” said Gansert.  “I had all the mission materials, so I was aware of the scenarios and planned munitions for the exercise, but nothing in terms of Lithuania’s previous experience with similar exercises or munitions. While I was still in the seat after the GBU drop, I began hearing feedback regarding how excited the Lithuanians were and how well the mission was going. It wasn’t until that point that someone explained the significance that it was the first-ever GPS-guided munition dropped at a Lithuanian range.”