The Arizona Air National Guard launched its first stateside MQ-1 Predator sortie last week from Fort Huachuca, Ariz. The sortie was enabled by the stand up of the unit’s new Launch and Recovery Element, according to a unit release. “The LRE completion is a product of more than six years of planning and preparation, and the first flight of an Arizona MQ-1 … was a great milestone for our wing,” said 162nd Wing Commander Col. Phil Purcell. The wing’s 214th Reconnaissance Group began flying remote RPA combat missions in theatre from Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., eight years ago. The new LRE will now take on a crew-training role to “prepare airmen from across the country to operate and maintain our nation’s RPA assets, and as one of only five ANG LREs in the country, Arizona remains at the forefront of readiness for any federal or state requirement,” Purcell added. The unit has logged more than 70,000 combat flying hours to date, and is still awaiting the completion of hangars and support facilities next year.
Three B-1B Lancers from the 7th Bomb Wing flew over the Indo-Pacific alongside F-16s from the Japanese Air Self Defense Force recently, as part of a joint large force exercise. The mission began and ended in the continental U.S., as the bombers flew 31 hours and landed Jan. 11.