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Air National Guard defending its drone training program

Ryan Delaney
Col. Greg Semmel, commander of the 174th Attack Wing of the Air National Guard, seen earlier this year.

Syracuse's Air National Guard unit is issuing assurance its drone training program is safe two weeks after one crashed into Lake Ontario on a training mission.

An MQ-9 Reaper crashed into the lake 20 miles northeast of Oswego on Nov. 12, which did not result in any injuries. The Air Force continues to investigate that crash.

Training flights resumed yesterday with drones taking off from Fort Drum and operated from Hancock Airfield in Syracuse, the 174th Attack Wing announced.

At a press conference this afternoon, Col. Greg Semmel, the 174th's commander, said the return to flying comes after careful review of the program, but he provided no details into the cause of the accident or investigation.

He said he had "complete confidence" in its program and that future operations and plans to eventually fly drones directly from Syracuse have not changed.

"Any other Air Force program out there you’ll find that it’s a very safe platform and it has not changed our plans at all to operate the MQ-9 off of Hancock Field."

The 174th flies its training missions over the Adirondack Mountains, Lake Ontario and parts of Onondaga County in militart airspace. That hasn't changed, Semmel said.

A Navy dive team has been searching for the wreckage of the drone, which went down 12 miles off shore for several days. Several pieces of the aircraft have so far been found washed up on shore.

The 174th switched from manned F-16s to the unmanned MQ-9 in 2010.