Air Guard Unit Hits Predator Milestone

The California Air National Guard’s 163rd Reconnaissance Wing at March ARB, Calif., has surpassed 50,000 total flying hours with MQ-1 Predator remotely piloted aircraft. The unit reached this milestone earlier this month, less than four years into its tenure of operating Predators. “To put this achievement in perspective, remember that we used to fly the KC-135 Stratotanker 3,000 hours annually,” said Col. Randall Ball, 163rd RW boss. He added, “Reaching 50,000 hours in tankers would have taken more than 16 years.” The wing switched from KC-135s to Predators in November 2006 as part of BRAC 2005. It was the first Air Guard unit assigned the RPA mission. Its airmen use ground stations at March to control Predators flying in Southwest Asia. The 50,000 flying hours includes nearly 1,400 hours accumulated by the wing’s Predator schoolhouse (see below). (March report by SSgt. Paul Duquette)