CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. --- Airmen from the 11th Reconnaissance Squadron flew an MQ-1 Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle past the 250,000 flying hour milestone marking the historic milestone with a ceremony June 22 at Creech Air Force Base.
"This historic achievement in the evolution of air and space power underlines the United States Air Force commitment to unmanned aerial systems," said Maj. Robert Forino, the pilot with the 11th Reconnaissance Squadron who flew the Predator past the 250,000 flying hour.
The Predator is a medium-altitude, long-endurance, remotely piloted aircraft. Its primary mission is interdiction and conducting armed reconnaissance against critical, perishable targets.
"The MQ-1 Predator is an aircraft system born into combat and has provided incredible combat capability since it entered service in 1995," said Senior Airman Christopher Ayers, who was the sensor operator of the aircraft that flew past the quarter-million flying mark.
After the Predator was activated, it was deployed to the Balkans in support of NATO operations in the former Yugoslavia.
At that time the aircraft was strictly an observation platform that was launched, programmed and sent on a mission to observe a set of locations. Upon completion of the programmed mission, the aircraft would return to the launch area and the crew would review the video footage and either send the aircraft back to give targets a second look or send it to view the next set of targets.
Its capabilities have been constantly improved since the original version. Notable upgrades include the addition of satellite control allowing operation of the aircraft anywhere in the world from the United States; the ability to disseminate full motion video, real-time, anywhere in the world including ground forces; laser targeting and weapons capability; and numerous passive sensors.
"There are Predators airborne in support of operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Because of what it can bring to the fight, the Predator is the most requested asset in theater," said Col. Christopher Chambliss, the 432nd Wing commander.
Predator crews and support staff from the 432nd Wing continue to fly and fight around the clock, and passing the quarter-million flying hour mark is testament to their outstanding efforts, Major Forino said.
The Predator, and other Air Force unmanned aerial vehicles, support the joint fight with precision and flexibility unmatched by any other family of weapons systems and are helping to shape 21st century air and space power.