Final Predator enters Fleet

The Air Force last week received its 268th and final MQ-1 Predator remotely piloted aircraft from manufacturer General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. “This event marks a milestone in Air Force history given the path this aircraft took from conception to operational excellence,” said Col. Christopher Coombs, chief of USAF’s medium-altitude unmanned aircraft systems division at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. The Predator first flew in 1994 and has become an indispensable component of the Air Force’s overhead intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance portfolio. At first unarmed, service officials later incorporated Hellfire missiles on the Predator to give it a ground-attack capability. Coombs said the fleet has maintained a mission capable rate more than 90 percent. With no more Predators on order, the Air Force intends to transition gradually to a fleet of more-capable MQ-9 Reapers. (Wright Patterson release)