General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI) announced that its Predator family of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), encompassing Predator, Predator B, Gray Eagle, and Avenger lines, has achieved a historic industry milestone: five million flight hours.
The milestone was achieved on April 4, with 360,311 total missions completed and more than 90 percent of all missions flown in combat.
“Five million flight hours is a testament to the reliability of our RPA systems that are designed, built, and maintained by a dedicated group of skilled and innovative professionals for operations around the world,” said Linden Blue, CEO, GA-ASI. “Our 25-year history has produced a list of ‘firsts’ in RPA development and we have leveraged this progress to apply the latest technology and advancement in our new and improved aircraft, such as the MQ-9B SkyGuardian™.”
The identification of the specific aircraft and customer that achieved the milestone is unknown as every second of every day, 69 Predator-class Medium-altitude, Long-endurance aircraft are airborne worldwide. Flight hours have continued to grow at unprecedented rates in recent years, with 500,000 flight hours achieved from 1993 to 2008, one million hours in 2010, two million hours in 2012, three million hours in 2014, and four million hours in 2016.
“The demand for persistent situational awareness using GA-ASI RPA is demonstrated daily through the increasing accumulation of flight hours. This demand is consistently answered by our team of employees, suppliers, and partners who work hard to meet our customers’ dynamic mission requirements,” said David R. Alexander, president, Aircraft Systems, GA-ASI.
Recently GA-ASI’s Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper fleet passed its own historic milestone, achieving two million flight hours on November 12, 2017 after flying approximately 143,279 total sorties. Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper flight hours now account for approximately 40 percent of GA-ASI’s five million total flight hours and are increasing at an average rate of 37,000 hours a month.
GA-ASI has more than 8,000 employees with 1135 employees and subcontractors deployed worldwide. On average, GA-ASI produces approximately eight aircraft per month.
GA-ASI aircraft average over 50,000 hours per month supporting the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, NASA, the Italian Air Force, the Royal Air Force, the French Air Force, the UAE Armed Forces, and other customers. Missions include helping protect ground units on the battlefield; supporting U.S. Customs & Border Protection operations, and first responders in the wake of natural disasters. These aircraft systems continue to maintain the highest operational availability rates in the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army aircraft inventories. GA-ASI has produced more than 825 aircraft to date and over 300 Ground Control Stations (GCS).
The Predator-series family includes Predator A and Predator XP; Predator B/MQ-9B Reaper, Guardian, Predator B/MQ-9B Reaper Extended Range (ER), MQ-9B SkyGuardian, and SeaGuardian; Gray Eagle/ER; and Predator C Avenger/ER.