Friday, April 9, 2010

Predator-series UAVs surpass one million flight hours

The General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) Predator-series of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has surpassed one million flight hours, the company announced on 6 April.

The milestone encompasses just under 80,000 missions, over 85 per cent of which have been flown in combat.

According to GA-ASI, the identity of the specific aircraft and operator that achieved the milestone will not be known until mid-May due to delayed flight hours reporting from the field.

Predator-series UAVs are in constant daily operations supporting the US Air Force (USAF), US Army, US Navy (USN), US Department of Homeland Security, NASA, the Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare Italiana – AMI), the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) and other customers.

Over 400 aircraft have been produced since the first Predator took flight in 1994, including RQ/MQ-1 Predator A, I-GNAT ER/Sky Warrior Alpha, MQ-9 Reaper (Predator B), MQ-1C Sky Warrior and Predator C Avenger aircraft, among others.

Predator-series flight hours have increased in recent years from 80,000 hours in 2006 to 130,000 hours in 2007, 235,000 hours in 2008 and 295,000 hours in 2009. The one million flight hours milestone comes less than a month after the USAF announced that it had surpassed 700,000 flight hours for the MQ-1B Predator.

By Gareth Jennings

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