The Big 500K

The Predator unmanned aerial vehicles fleet surpassed the mark of 500,000 total flying hours Feb. 18 when an MQ-1 Predator flown by members of the 15th Reconnaissance Squadron at Creech AFB, Nev., eclipsed the milestone during a mission over Iraq. Gen. John Corley, commander of Air Combat Command, said the achievement is “but one example” of airmen’s contributions the current war on terror. And, Lt. Gen. Norman Seip, who heads 12th Air Force, said the mark is “a testament to the continued dedications and perseverance” of the airmen of Creech’s 432nd Wing and 432nd Expeditionary Wing, who operate and maintain these General Atomics Aeronautical System-built, armed intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance aircraft. As an indication of their worth today, note that it took roughly 12 years from the Predator’s 1995 inception for the fleet to reach 250,000 flying hours, but only one year and eight months for it to tally the second 250,000 hours, the Air Force said. The Air Force currently operates more than 30 Predator combat air patrols over Afghanistan and Iraq. Each CAP of several aircraft provides 24/7 overhead coverage of a certain area. Corley said Predators accumulate more than 19,000 flight hours per month now—95 percent of the hours are flown in Southwest Asia. (Creech report by SSgt. Alice Moore)