At Balad AB, Iraq, the 46th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Unit comprises airmen—active, Air National Guard, and British—and contractors—many of whom are former blue-suiters themselves. The contractors add a unique element, since some have worked with Predator unmanned aerial vehicles for almost 10 years. Orival Greenfield, a 46th EAMU deployment team lead and retired senior master sergeant, has seen the platform evolve from an experiment to a highly valued asset. Back when he started with the program in 1997, he told Air Force journalist A1C Jason Ridder, there would be only one aircraft in the sky at a time. “Now there are multiple Predators in the sky at the same time, and most of the missions are flown from Nellis,” he added.
The Collaborative Combat Aircraft will be operational in the late 2020s, several years before the Next-Generation Air Dominance family of systems, Air Force officials told the House Armed Services tactical aviation panel. The CCAs will first be “shooters,” then electronic warfare platforms, then sensors, in that order, they added.