Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, USA: An MQ-1 Predator Unmanned Aircraft System took off last week from the Creech Air Force Base, in the State of Nevada, USA, last week on a flight that took the Predator UAS family past the 250,000 flying hour milestone.
The MQ-1 Predator entered service in 1995, and was first deployed to the Balkans in support of NATO operations in the former Yugoslavia.
At that time the aircraft was strictly an observation platform that was launched, programmed and sent on a mission to observe a set of locations. Upon completion of the programmed mission the aircraft would return to the launch area and the crew would review the video footage and either send the aircraft back to give targets a second look or send it to view the next set of targets.
Its capabilities have been considerably enhanced since then. Notable upgrades include the addition of satellite control, which allows operation of the aircraft anywhere in the world from the United States; the ability to disseminate full motion video, real-time, anywhere in the world including ground forces; laser targeting and weapons capability; and numerous passive sensors.
US Air Force officials say that there are Predators airborne in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They acknowledge that the Predator is the most requested system in the theatre because of the assets that it can bring to the fight.