Guard Flight Makes History

The Air National Guard conducted its first domestic MQ-1 Predator flight on Feb. 25 over the skies of southern California. Members of the California ANG’s 163rd Reconnaissance Wing, which is in the process of becoming the first Air Guard Predator formal training unit, conducted the mission from the Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville, Calif., to evaluate the aircraft’s performance and scout the surrounding area for factors that might hinder future operations. Plans to hand over control of the aircraft in flight to a crew at March Air Reserve Base about 40 miles away were scrubbed due to weather issues. “However, the impact of this first flight to the formal training unit’s development is as important as anything we’ve done so far,” said Lt. Col Kirby Colas, commander of the wing’s 196th Reconnaissance Squadron. The 163rd RW was the first ANG unit to receive the Predator mission, in 2006, and the first to open a Predator maintenance schoolhouse. It intends to begin its first nine-week FTU class later this month. The wing has three MQ-1 air vehicles, one of which may be based at March. (March 23 Victorville report by SrA. Paul Duquette)