Guard unit welcomes Predator, reconnaissance mission|
6/12/2008 - ELLINGTON FIELD, Texas (AFPN) -- Members of the 147th Fighter Wing here said goodbye to their F-16 Fighting Falcons and made room for the MQ-1 Predator as the Air National Guard unit became the 147th Reconnaissance Wing June 7.
The Predators at the Houston Air National Guard Base are expected to enhance both U.S. military capabilities worldwide and to aid in Homeland Security missions aimed at preventing terrorist attacks at home.
Current plans call for 12 total aircraft. The remotely piloted vehicles will be supported by two fixed ground control stations, a mobile ground control station, secure communication links, and three launch and recovery ground control stations. The unit will also operate a training simulator. The unit should be fully equipped and outfitted by 2009. The investment cost for the project is an estimated $250 million with a $68 million annual operating budget.
The unit's history goes back to 1917, and one of the unit's pilots, then Lt. George W. Bush, became president of the United States. During the 90 years of flying history, pilots of the unit have flown the Curtiss JN-4 Jenny, Douglas 2C, Stinson 49, Curtis 52, A-20, P-39, Allison P-51, F-84 Thunderjet, F-15 Mustang, T-6 Texan, F-80, T-33, F-86, F-102, F-101, F-4 Phantom, C-26 Merlin, F-16 and now the Predator.
With its wingspan of 48 feet and a length of 26 feet, the Predator operates between 15,000 and 25,000 feet and has a 600-mile range, 20-hour mission time. The unmanned aircraft carries three sensor systems -- television, infrared and radar sensors -- for reconnaissance and surveillance missions. It can also carry Hellfire missiles and can be used for interdiction. A basic crew consisting of a pilot and two sensor operators operate the Predator from the ground.
"A chapter about the 147th Fighter Wing was closed and a new chapter about the 147th Reconnaissance Wing was opened," said Brig. Gen. Donald Harvel, the Texas Air National Guard commander. "I am very proud of the men and women of the 147th Reconnaissance Wing for their tremendous service and hard work to transform into a wing and mission that will serve our state and nation for many years."
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