From Predator to Reaper

Members of the California Air National Guard’s 163rd Reconnaissance Wing earlier this month flew the unit’s final mission with the MQ-1 Predator remotely piloted aircraft, according to a unit release. After more than eight and a half years of consecutive Predator flights in support of US forces overseas and also helping civil authorities during wildfires and floods at home, these airmen are now flying MQ-9 Reapers in similar roles, states the April 16 release. Col. Dana Hessheimer, 163rd RW commander, praised his airmen, saying safely performing the Predator mission over those years “couldn’t have been done without their dedication and professionalism.” He piloted the MQ-1 on April 1 on the wing’s last sortie. The wing, headquartered at March Air Reserve Base outside of Riverside in southern California, in August 2006 became the first Air Guard unit to operate the MQ-1. In July 2014, the wing conducted its first local Reaper flight. “We are the most experienced wing in the world flying remotely piloted aircraft,” said Hessheimer. “Our pilots fly combat air patrol missions and have both training and operational experience with over 6,500 sorties,” he added.