CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — The 432nd Maintenance Group continues to dominate airpower by exceeding the Air Combat Command’s mission capable standards eight years running. This achievement has led to the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper being some of the most reliable aircraft platforms in the Air Force today.
For more than 18 years, remotely piloted aircraft have played key roles in aircraft operations. None of which would have been possible without the aircraft maintenance personnel who played a vital role as the Air Force’s RPA enterprise surpassed two million flight hours in October 2013.
“The Airmen who come off of legacy aircraft (define legacy aircraft) platforms and integrate flawlessly into the remotely piloted aircraft enterprise are phenomenal,” said Maj. Joshua, 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron operations officer. “They have used lessons learned to improve mission capable rates from 60 to 80 percent on their traditional legacy aircraft and applied those lessons to now achieve 95 to 98 percent mission capable rates on RPAs.”
Mission capable means the aircraft has no supply or maintenance issues preventing it from successfully completing a mission. The 432nd MXG has continuously exceeded the RPA standard mission capable rate of 86 percent set by Air Combat Command.
“We calculate our MC rates based on aircraft platforms and ground control station maintenance,” said Joshua.
The MQ-1 Predator has achieved a 95.4 percent MC rate while its predecessor, the MQ-9 Reaper, has a 90.4 percent MC rate from April 2013 to April 2014.
There is no set standard by the major command for GCS maintenance, but the 432nd MXG has set, and surpassed, its own goal of 97 percent.
The hard work and dedication of maintenance crews is essential to mission success for hundreds of active duty, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve Airmen, as well as joint and coalition partners involved in everyday RPA operations.
“This high MC rate is impressive because of the amount of hours these guys fly,” said Chief Master Sgt. Alfredo, 432nd MXG quality assurance superintendent. “Sometimes they launch an MQ-1 and it’s a 20-hour sortie, or launch an MQ-9 and it’s a 16-hour sortie. Crews burn up the hours on these planes and we’re still incredibly successful in terms of maintenance.”
Providing this type of maintenance is no easy task and drastically differs from other Air Force aircraft platforms, according to seasoned maintenance personnel.
“This is a unique way of doing maintenance. With traditional legacy aircraft you are on the ground and can physically see the pilot and communicate with them,” said Alfredo. “With the RPA platforms your pilot can be on the other side of base or thousands of miles away. Because of that, all our interaction is done all through radio communication, which adds a greater room for error.”
Being geographically separated is a challenge that the maintenance personnel have been able to overcome.
“It’s a true testament to the professionals that we have here, they have come up with creative solutions to get the job done,” said DePaul.
The more than 400 Airmen assigned to the 432nd MXG are a mix of active duty Airmen, reservists, guardsmen, and contractors who provide aircraft and equipment maintenance in support of worldwide expeditionary operations, formal training units, and for operational test and evaluations on a 24/7, 365-day basis.
“With all the merging global requirements and the budget constraints, the men and women of Creech Air Force Base and the RPA enterprise work together to sustain and maintain this vital weapons system across the globe,” said Joshua.