General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc announced Sept. 24 that its PredatorÆ/Gray EagleÆ-series aircraft family has reached a historic industry milestone: two million flight hours.
The noteworthy achievement occurred on Sept. 9, with more than 150,000 total missions completed and nearly 90-percent of all missions flown in combat.
GA-ASI’s business is the development of transformational systems that deliver paradigm changing results,î said Neal Blue, chairman and CEO, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. ìThis accomplishment has resulted in the highest availability of any manned or unmanned aircraft system in the world and also demonstrates the value of the integrated sensor and data link systems required to deliver persistent, wide-area situational awareness.
The identification of the specific aircraft and customer that achieved the milestone is unknown as every second of every day approximately 50 GA-ASI aircraft are airborne worldwide. On Sept. 9, 24 Predators, 15 Predator Bs, six Gray Eagles, and five Sky WarriorÆ Alphas were in operation. Flight hours have seen tremendous growth in recent years, with 500,000 flight hours achieved from 1993 to 2008, one million just two years later in 2010, and one-and-a-half million the following year in 2011. The aircraft family is currently logging more than 45,000 flight hours a month.
The real achievement is what two million representsñtwo million hours of operating a proven technology that saves lives, reduces threats, safeguards borders, and advances science, said Frank Pace, president, Aircraft Systems Group, GA-ASI. The ultimate effectiveness of our RPA relies upon the dedication and innovation of our employees, a commitment from our suppliers to deliver superior quality products in a timely manner, and support from our partners to meet our customersí ever-changing requirements.
Predator/Gray Eagle-series aircraft are in constant daily operations supporting the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, NASA, the Italian Air Force, the Royal Air Force, and other customers in the execution of a wide variety of missions:
- Help protect warfighters by tracking their movement and searching for potential threats, along with engaging hostile enemies when necessary.
- Assist border agents in curbing the tide of illegal immigrants, sealing the nationís borders from terrorists, stemming the flow of illicit contraband, and performing drug interdiction. Also thwart human trafficking and piracy schemes on the maritime front.
- Aid first responders in prioritizing government resources most effectively, saving lives, and preventing millions of dollars in property damage following natural disasters.
- Support scientists in performing Earth science missions, as well as advanced aircraft systems research and technology development.
More than 550 aircraft have been produced since the companyís first aircraft, the GNATÆ 750, took flight in 1993. Today, GA-ASI is building six aircraft and five Ground Control Stations per month, with the capacity to double production if needed.