Half a Million Club

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., announced Monday that its Predator family of unmanned aerial vehicles in use with the US and foreign militaries has eclipsed more than 500,000 flight hours, with 85 percent of that time spent in combat. These aircraft are also approaching the 50,000th mission mark, the company said. These milestones “give witness to the fact that the demand for our aircraft continues to grow,” because these platforms “are key contributors to mission success and saving lives in combat,” said Thomas Cassidy, president of GA-ASI’s Aircraft Systems Group. GA-ASI said it has produced more than 300 Predator-series aircraft to date. The family includes the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper used by the Air Force, the Sky Warrior Alpha used by the Army, among others. The company said the 500,000 hour milestone was reached during the armed reconnaissance flight of an MQ-1 July 26 over Iraq. MQ-1s have flown the vast majority of these hours. It was less than one month ago that the Air Force announced that the MQ-1 fleet alone surpassed more than 400,000 flight hours. Predator-series aircraft are now flying more than 20,000 hours a month supporting coalition forces in Afghanistan and Iraq and providing surveillance of US borders, according to GA-ASI.