Posted by John McHale
SAN DIEGO, 6 April 2010. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA ASI) announced that its Predator-series unmanned aircraft system (UAS) with combat missions over the past weekend exceeded the one million flight hours mark. The milestone encompasses just under 80,000 total missions, with more than 85-percent of all missions flown in combat.
The identification of the specific aircraft and customer that achieved the milestone will not be known until mid-May due to delayed flight hours reporting from the field. Predator-series UAS are in constant daily operations supporting the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, NASA, the Italian Air Force, the United Kingdom's Royal air force, and others. More than 400 aircraft have been produced since the first Predator UAS took flight in 1994, including Predator A, I-GNAT ER/Sky Warrior Alpha, Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper, Sky Warrior, and Predator C Avenger, among others.
Predator-series flight hours have seen tremendous growth in recent years, with annual totals increasing from 80,000 hours in 2006, to 130,000 hours in 2007, 235,000 hours in 2008, and 295,000 hours in 2009.
"The business of GA-ASI is the development of transformational systems which deliver paradigm changing results," says J. Neal Blue, chairman and chief executive officer, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. "The achievement of this historic milestone is a testament to the success enjoyed by Predator-series unmanned aircraft systems – clearly one of the game changers and life savers of the day."
"This combined customer accomplishment reflects the high demand that in-theater commanders have for the Predator product, as well as the exceptional contributions of our employees, suppliers, and partners," says Frank Pace, newly appointed president of GA-ASI's Aircraft Systems Group.
Predator-series aircraft are currently logging nearly 30,000 flight hours a month supporting U.S. coalition forces in combat and with homeland security requirements. Every second of every day, 40 aircraft are airborne worldwide providing persistent surveillance and precision strike support in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other world hot spots; protecting the nation's borders; and conducting humanitarian assistance and disaster relief support following wildfires, hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes. GA-ASI is currently building eight Predator-series UAS and seven ground control stations (GCS) per month, with the capacity to double production if needed.