Sun setting the MQ-1 Predator: MQ-9 Reaper meets demand

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman James Thompson
  • 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing public affairs

With the retirement of the MQ-1 Predator on the horizon, MQ-9 Reapers were successfully transferred via flight from one combat operation to another within the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility for the first time.

In January, Airmen facilitated the flight of MQ-9s from Operation Inherent Resolve to Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

As aircrews seamlessly continue to provide dominant, persistent attack and reconnaissance capabilities to meet war front demands from the MQ-9, MQ-1s enter the transition phase out of active inventory.

When the Air Force determines to retire an aircraft, it goes through a screening process outlined in the Defense Materiel Disposition Manual. In the case of the MQ-1, officials are still executing that process and are working with other agencies to determine configurations and quantity for a possible transfer.

There are a number of possibilities where retired MQ-1s could go, including U.S. and coalition museums.

Currently, Creech Airmen have transported one MQ-1 to the American Air Museum in Duxford, England, and another to the Royal Air Force Museum in London where visitors will learn about the aircrafts’ achievements and contributions.

“Back in 2015, we coordinated with Air Combat Command and came up with a game plan to demilitarize the aircraft,” said Staff Sgt. Jonathan, MQ-1 and MQ-9 crew chief with the 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. “We started making progress and now have the final MQ-1 flight scheduled to take place in March.”

Predators were demilitarized before the scheduled shipment date while Airmen continued supporting the local training missions at Creech and provided maintenance support to downrange operations.

“It [preserving history] gives me a chance to explain how I used to work on this aircraft to my family when I see it in a museum one day,” said Jonathan. “It’s a bittersweet feeling, having worked on this aircraft the majority of my career.”

The MQ-1 began as just an innovative thought, but proved to be an effective and desired asset thanks to the efforts of Airmen who supported its mission set.

The two MQ-1s from Creech are marked with the tail numbers 03-3119 and 03-3120, and have an estimated 14 years of service in the Air Force. During that time, aircrews recorded approximately 22,800 flight hours and 1,500 sorties in support of combat operations and local training missions.

The aircrew who flew them made key contributions to U.S. and coalition efforts while active.

“It is sad that the MQ-1 Predator is sun setting, but we are excited for the new era of flying the MQ-9 Reaper,” said Capt. Fred, MQ-1 pilot. “I am so proud of the missions we’ve accomplished and the lives we’ve saved.”

(Editor's note: This article is part two of a four-part series.)

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