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Predator progress for the Arizona Air National Guard

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Lacey Roberts
  • 162nd Wing Public Affairs
The sounds of cheers, applause and an occasional "woohoo" filled the air as an MQ-1 Predator from the 162nd Wing lifted off and flew a set flight pattern at Libby Army Airfield, Nov. 5, marking the Arizona Air National Guard's first Predator flight on U.S. soil.

The 214th Reconnaissance Group, aligned under the 162nd in April, began flying the unmanned aerial vehicle in daily combat missions via satellite from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in 2006.  Now the long sought Launch and Recovery Element (LRE) is finally ready to perform missions stateside.

"The LRE completion is a product of more than six years of planning and preparation, and the first flight of an Arizona MQ-1 last week was a great milestone for our wing," said Col. Phil Purcell, commander of the 162nd Wing.

Lt. Col. Ross Pearson piloted the Predator's maiden U.S. voyage for the 162nd Wing.

He is one of the original members of the 214th, a unit that started with a crew of two and has grown to more than 180 personnel.  Aircrew have provided over 70,000 hours of Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) to operations overseas.

"Flying a remotely piloted aircraft is a complex endeavor involving dozens of people and hundreds of moving parts", said Pearson.  The goal of the first flight was to perform a low approach over the runway and complete a couple touch and go maneuvers, he said.

According to Pearson the aircraft performed perfectly.  The flight lasted more than an hour and served to evaluate the aircraft's equipment and functionality. 

Although the first test flight was a successful endeavor, the support facility construction is not yet complete.  Dedication of the hangar is scheduled for later this year and projected to be ready for military and contract support staff to move-in sometime in early 2015. 

Once complete, the primary mission will be to support formal training of pilots and sensor operators, but will likely evolve into providing direct support of civil authorities.

"The 162nd LRE will help 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 said.