Behind the Scenes With Predator: Predator UAVs flying over Iraq are directed by pilots and sensor operators who may be sitting at Creech AFB, Nev., and, sometimes, Balad AB, Iraq, and they are maintained by 61 USAF airmen and three RAF airmen on the scene in Balad, reports Air Force journalist SSgt. Tammie Moore. They include aircraft avionics, tactical aircraft maintenance, weapons, ground communication, and aerospace ground equipment technicians and support personnel. The US airmen come from Creech—and only Creech, right now—forming part of USAF’s low density, high demand forces, which means they deploy more often than a single air expeditionary force rotation per year. They run a 24-hour operation in Iraq, spending much more time maintaining the Predators because of the wear of long-duration operational missions.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.