It’s a babe in the woods compared to its brethren, but the Predator operators in Iraq say flying their latest acquisition is a treat because of its low miles, reports SSgt. Kenya Shiloh at Ali Base, Iraq. The new MQ-1 unmanned aerial vehicle, fresh from the factory, flew its first combat mission on Feb. 8. Most of the Air Force’s Predator UAVs fly several missions per day, averaging more than 400 flying hours per month. Maj. Tommy Hoard, commander of the 46th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron’s Det. 1 at Ali Base, said, “If there’s anything going on, there’s always a UAS [unmanned aerial system] overhead.” Hoard, who is one of the in-theater operators who perform UAV launch and recovery, added, “When the guys on the ground are calling for something, they’re calling for us to be there.”
Reports of production troubles on the SpaceX rocket that could contend for military cargo deliveries happened to coincide with a different company’s concept receiving an early nod—one that might not require a rocket at all.