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Predator passes 600,000 flight hours

9/30/2009 - CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFNS) -- Airmen of the 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing here surpassed the 600,000 flight hour mark in the MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft system Sept. 4 here.

The Predator fleet passed 250,000 hours in June 2007, after 12 years of flying, and it only took a year and eight months for the aircraft to fly an additional 250,000 hours to reach 500,000 flying hours in February 2009.

Due to the continuous demand for the aircraft by combatant commanders, the Predator reached 600,000 flying hours seven months later.

An aircrew from the 15th Reconnaissance Squadron flew this milestone mission in support of overseas contingency operations.

"We are proud to be a part of yet another RPV milestone and will continue to make significant contributions in the future," said Lt. Col. Robert Kiebler, the 15th RS commander. "The men and women of the 15th RS provide continuous 24/7/365 intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, close-air support, and combat search and rescue capability to support the warfighters in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their dedication and commitment in the face of adversity is nothing short of astounding."

Fielded in 1995, the Predator's primary mission is to provide armed reconnaissance, airborne surveillance and target acquisition to commanders in the field. The Predator can be armed with two laser-guided AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and carries the Multispectral Targeting System, which integrates electro-optical, infrared, laser designator and illuminator into a single sensor package.

Col. Pete Gersten, the 432d Wing and 432d Air Expeditionary Wing commander, said the capabilities of the Predator have made the aircraft a vital asset to the joint ground forces in Afghanistan and Iraq,

"The Predator provides our ground forces direct support with its unblinking eye and persistent stare, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year," Colonel Gersten said. "This milestone is a true testament to the impact this capability has in the fight."

Currently there are more than 31 Predator combat air patrols flying 24/7, 365 days a year over Iraq and Afghanistan.

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