Last flight for USAF MQ-1 Predator

Aligned with Air Force tradition, firefighters stood by after the local flight and greeted the MQ-1 with a water salute using two firetrucks to commemorate the occasion

The U.S. Air Force retired the MQ-1 at Creech Air Force Base (AFB) on Mar. 9 after more than 20 years of service.

The MQ-1 ceremony included the final local flight by the Airmen of the 489th Attack Squadron and the last combat line flown by the 15th Expeditionary Attack Squadron (ATKS) in an undisclosed area of responsibility.

As told by Senior Airman James Thompson 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing in the article Sun setting the MQ-1 Predator: The final salute, an aircrew assigned to the 489th ATKS had an early arrival time of 4:45 am, received a mission brief, stepped to the cockpit and took flight with the MQ-1 for the last time.

“I feel extremely honored and proud to be part of an Air Force aircraft’s retirement,” said Staff Sgt. Robert, 489th ATKS sensor operator. “Especially considering the impact this aircraft has had on today’s fight.”

Aligned with Air Force tradition, firefighters assigned to the 99th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Protection Flight stood by after the local flight and greeted the MQ-1 with a water salute using two firetrucks to commemorate the occasion.

“I am sad to see this capable weapon system go away,” said Robert. “But, I am happy to see the Air Force continue growing and evolving the RPA enterprise.”

A water salute was a formal acknowledgement of past victories of the MQ-1 and symbolized the Air Force’s farewell to the airframe.

Ceremony attendees included RPA enterprise leaders who were critical in the development of the MQ-1.

Lt. Col. Nicholas, 15th Attack Squadron commander, and Senior Master Sgt. Westley, 15th ATKS superintendent, fly the last MQ-1 Predator combat line, March 9, 2018, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev.

Mr. Abraham Karem, president of Karem Aircraft Incorporated and the original engineer of the MQ-1, spoke during the ceremony. Karem manufactured his first drone, Albatross, in his garage and later, the more sophisticated Amber, which eventually evolved into the distinguished Predator.

“The key was not going from the garage to Amber to GNAT 750 to Predator A,” Karem said. “The key was really creating the team.”

After its creation, a need for greater intelligence collection capability lead to Air Force acquisition, continuous advancement and eventual arming of the Predator.

Mr. James G. “Snake” Clark, the Director, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, Modernization and Infrastructure and Deputy Chief of Staff for ISR, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, was a determined advocate in the Predator’s early stages.

Clark’s advocacy contributed to the first combat deployment of the Predator in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks on 9/11, the addition of the AGM-114 Hellfire, the development of the remote operations video enhanced receiver (ROVER) allowing unparalleled situational awareness on the ground, and the eventual growth of the RPA community.

The sun setting ceremony celebrated the MQ-1s departure and marked the beginning of an all-MQ-9 Reaper force.

An MQ-1 Predator taxis on the runway March 9, 2018, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. Today, the MQ-1 took flight for the last time at Creech, marking its retirement and the transition to an all MQ-9 Reaper force.

Photo credit: Senior Airman James Thompson and Senior Airman Christian Clausen / U.S. Air Force

Gabriele Barison

Gabriele Barison is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Co-Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. He has flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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