Defense

March 12, 2018
 

Sun setting the MQ-1 Predator: The final salute

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Senior Airman James Thompson
Creech AFB, Nev.

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.

The Air Force held the MQ-1 Predator’s official retirement ceremony with Airmen from the 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing, Remotely Piloted Aircraft enterprise leaders, and MQ-1 alumni March 9, 2018, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev.

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 in an undisclosed area of responsibility.

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.”

An MQ-1 Predator receives a water salute to commemorate its time in service and capabilities provided to combatant commanders and troops on the ground March 9, 2018, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. Airmen have operated the MQ-1 for more than 20 years and provided intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and strike capabilities to the fight 24/7/365 across multiple areas of responsibilities.

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.

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.

Col. Joseph, 432nd Operations Group commander, delivers remarks for the 15th Attack Squadron’s casing ceremony March 9, 2018, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. The final MQ-1 Predator combat line was flown in an undisclosed area of responsibility by Airmen of the 15th ATKS during the official MQ-1 retirement ceremony.

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.

“This wing and other Predator wings have done more for the war on terrorism than any other wing in the Air Force,” Clark said. “You have saved lives.”

 “The MQ-1’s persistence and unique combination of strike and reconnaissance capabilities makes it a valuable tool for combatant commanders, but technology itself does not win wars,” said Col. Julian Cheater, 432nd WG/432nd AEW commander. “It is the combination of our innovative Airmen, joint and coalition partners, and our brilliant industrial base that have teamed together to fight this away game against our nation’s most ruthless enemies.”

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

Col. Joseph, 432nd Operations Group commander and Lt. Col. Nicholas, 15th Attack Squadron commander pose for a photo after casing the 15th ATKS guidon March 9, 2018, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. The final MQ-1 Predator combat line was flown in an undisclosed area of responsibility by Airmen of the 15th ATKS during the official MQ-1 retirement ceremony.

 

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, speaks at the MQ-1 Predator retirement ceremony March 9, 2018, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. Clark played a role in the Air Force acquisition of the MQ-1 Predator and has seen it through many developments, including arming it with munitions, evolving its mission set from ISR to persistent attack.

 

Abraham Karem, president of Karem Aircraft Incorporated, speaks during the MQ-1 Predator retirement ceremony March 9, 2018, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. Karem is considered the “father” of the MQ-1 for having built an earlier model of what later evolved into the MQ-1 in his home garage.

 

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. Airmen have operated the MQ-1 for more than 20 years and provided intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and strike capabilities to the fight 24/7/365 across multiple areas of responsibilities.

 

Lt. Col. Nicholas, 15th Attack Squadron commander, Senior Master Sgt. Westley, 15th ATKS superintendent, and Lt. Col. Erik, former 15th ATKS commander, celebrate the MQ-1 Predator’s last combat line March 9, 2018, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. The final MQ-1 Predator combat line was flown in an undisclosed area of responsibility by Airmen of the 15th ATKS during the official MQ-1 retirement ceremony.

 

Col. Joseph, 432nd Operations Group commander and Lt. Col. Nicholas, 15th Attack Squadron commander case the 15th Expeditionary ATKS guidon March 9, 2018, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. The final MQ-1 Predator combat line was flown in an undisclosed area of responsibility by Airmen of the 15th ATKS during the official MQ-1 retirement ceremony.




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