Engage

T
Logo
F
Logo
T
Logo
T
Logo
T
Logo
T
Logo
F
Logo
T
Logo
T
Logo
T
Logo
T
Logo
F
Logo
T
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
Facebook
2,001,992
Like Us
Twitter
409,165
Follow Us
YouTube Google+ Blog RSS Instagram

RPAs reach 2 million hours

LAS VEGAS (AFNS) -- The U.S. Air Force's MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft accumulated 2 million flight hours Oct. 22, not only marking a significant milestone, but also demonstrating the evolution of the program. 

The RPA program began in the mid-1990s. It took 16 years for the community to reach 1 million hours and a mere two and a half years to double those flight hours.

"There is just no way to describe what an amazing event that was," said Col. James Cluff, the 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing commander. "The community really had some very humble roots flying out of what used to be Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary Field here almost 20 years ago."

Although it was a crew from Creech Air Force Base to actually fly the mission that reached the 2 millionth flight hour marker, it is was a team effort that made the mission possible. 

Cluff said it was really an enterprise-wide event for the men and women of the RPA community. 

"Air Force Special Operations Command, Air Force Materiel Command, 480th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing, our guard and reserve partners, and many others all contributed to this - not just the 432nd Wing or Air Combat Command," Cluff said. "The whole team is represented here by this amazing achievement, and we couldn't be prouder."

Lt. Gen. John Hesterman, the commander of the U.S. Air Forces Central Command in Southwest Asia, noted the importance of RPAs and said it's the men and women of the community who have helped achieve such great success over the years.

"The fact that commanders have had this ISR and precision-strike capability from remotely piloted aircraft when and where they have needed it for so long is a remarkable milestone, and should be noted," Hesterman said. "But perhaps the bigger story and true achievement has been the unwavering dedication of the men and women who have made this capability available for such a sustained period of time. They have saved lives and made us and our coalition partners safer and more secure."

Chief Master Sgt. Butch Brien, the 432 Wing/432nd AEW command chief, noted the dedication of the Airmen, both past and present, behind the mission is unmatched.

"People are going to be talking about us for years and years to come - it's great to be part of this elite team," Brien said. "I think about the 24/7, 365 operations capability that we have working with our partners across the United States and overseas making this happen, and how advanced the technology has become since the beginning ... what we're achieving right now, you can't touch that." 

The crew chosen to fly the mission was hand-picked directly by their commander for a multitude of reasons. 

"The decision was based on several things such as qualifications, merit, and experience," said Capt. Ben, an 18th Reconnaissance Squadron RPA pilot who flew the 2 millionth hour mission. "We are continuing a legacy of flying of all the RPA pilots and sensors before us. However, it's a combined 'one team, one fight' effort. We depend on our counterparts like communications, maintenance, launch and recovery teams, and other RPA Airmen to be able to conduct and complete our missions."

Staff Sgt. Tabitha, a 18th RS mission intelligence coordinator, said the community has experienced an increase in the number of combat air patrols over the years but the dedication of the team is what makes the difference.

"Even though it's been hard, we've always found a way to meet the increasing demands," she said. 

Senior Airman Travis, a 18th RS sensor operator, gave one piece of advice for all the Airmen who play a part in keeping the mission capabilities going. 

"Stay flexible," he said. "At one point I was flying eight hours each day for nearly three months, but the flexibility and dedication of our people makes anything possible."

Although the aircrew members are the ones flying the planes, there are hundreds of people involved every day in RPA operations. 

"There is really nothing 'unmanned' about RPAs, other than the fact that there isn't a pilot in the cockpit," said Maj. Gen. John Shanahan, the Air Force ISR Agency commander. "From the maintenance personnel, to the pilots and sensor operators, to the communications experts, to the ISR professionals who exploited every signal and every second of every video, this is a team business. I am incredibly proud of the Airmen across the Air Force ISR Agency who have been involved in the RPA success story since day one. They take information from the RPAs and turn it into intelligence that allows someone to make a better decision - in peacetime and war."

Achieving such great heights commemorates more than just a proud moment, it also demonstrates how valuable the program has become in just two decades. 

Today, the RPA community continues to aid in missions worldwide while concurrently assessing and improving the capabilities of both the program and aircraft. 

"I carried the first Predator to Tazar, Hungary, in 1996 at the direction of Secretary of Defense William Perry," said retired Maj. Gen. Kenneth Israel. "Dr. Perry's guidance was 'if Predators save one soldier's life, they are worth deploying now.' No one could have envisioned the unprecedented success these systems have had during the last two decades."

(Editor’s note: The last names of certain individuals in this story have been removed for security reasons.)
TagRPA
USAF Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. AF reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The AF and the AF alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the AF, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying AF endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

AF does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. AF may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. AF does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the AF or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.
comments powered by Disqus