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Predator UAV Marks 50,000 Flight Hour

Predator UAV Marks 50,000 Flight Hours

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio (Aeronautical Systems Center) -- October 30, 2002 -- The RQ-1A Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle program reached a major milestone -- 50,000 flight hours -- Oct. 26 during an operational sortie from a deployed location, Predator program officials here at Aeronautical Systems Center announced today.

US Air Force Photo

"This is a significant program achievement," said Bill Grimes, director, Big Safari Program. "Predator gives the combatant commander ‘eyes on’ targeting and dramatically shortens the kill chain."

The program also has received praise from the commander in chief. "Before the war (Operation Enduring Freedom), the Predator had skeptics because it did not fit the old ways," President George W. Bush said Dec. 11. "Now it is clear that the military does not have enough unmanned vehicles."

Predator was the first Department of Defense Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration UAV to transition directly to active military service before achieving Initial Operational Capability, according to Lt. Col. Kevin "Ducky" Hoffmann, Predator program manager.

"Conceived from new operational requirements generated by Operation Desert Storm, Predator combined all the ideal war-fighting elements into one neat package," Hoffmann said.

"It had to fly as high as 25,000 feet to avoid shoulder-fired weapons; travel 500 nautical miles to the target area and return; cover mobile targets from 15,000 feet slant range for at least 24 hours with medium-resolution electro-optical, synthetic aperture radar and infrared sensors to ensure day/night, all-weather operations; and offer beyond line-of-sight satellite communications for efficient exploitation of imagery. The solution that met all these needs: the Predator RQ-1A Medium Altitude Endurance UAV."

Since its first test flight on July 3, 1994, Predator -- manufactured by prime contractor General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., San Diego, Calif. -- has been involved in both non-operational and combat missions, Hoffmann said.

"From 1995 to 1996, Predator supported joint-force military exercises involving counter-narcotics surveillance, theater missile defense, littoral warfare and offshore naval operations.

"And Predator has more than proven its worth to the war-fighter during the following military deployments: Operation Provide Promise (1995); Operation Joint Endeavor (1996); Operation Joint Guard (1997); Operation Joint Forge (1998); Operation Southern Watch (1999); Operation Allied Force (1999); and Operation Enduring Freedom (2001)."

Based on operational results, the Predator Sustainment Office here has continued to upgrade and improve the original UAV as war-fighting requirements have changed over the years, Hoffmann added.

One recent example: the Remote Operations Video Enhanced Receiver – an initiative to pipe video from an airborne Predator directly into an AC-130 aircraft crew station -- that dramatically increased effective, time-critical targeting.

"By the end of December 2001, after only 10 days of flight-testing, we delivered an improved ROVER system to support operations at a deployed location," he said.

Though it may resemble the original Predator, today’s UAV is vastly different from its earlier cousin – and tomorrow’s Predator promises to be even more capable.

"We’re now gearing up to produce the next generation, Predator B (MQ-9), initially equipped with Hellfire missiles and Multi-Spectral Targeting System, for its newest support role: hunter-killer," Hoffmann said.

"In future conflicts, flying longer, faster, and higher, this new Predator will keep U.S. war-fighters even further out of harm’s way – and, with pinpoint accuracy, help them take out more stationary and mobile targets than ever before."

For more information:

  • United States Air Force, (Air Force Materiel Command) Aeronautical Systems Center, 1865 Fourth St., Room 240, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH 45433-7129 Public Affairs: Sue Baker (937) 255-1103
  • General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., (GA-ASI), 16761Via Del Campo Court, San Diego, CA 92127-1713: Public Relations: Cyndi Wegerbauer (858) 455-2294

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).