On 31 October the General Atomics – Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) PREDATOR series of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) passed the aggregate six million flight hours mark. This milestone was achieved as aircraft completed 430,495 total missions, with close to 90% of those missions flown in combat.
“Six million flight hours is a testament to the reliability of our unmanned aircraft systems that are designed, built and sustained by a dedicated group of skilled and innovative professionals for operations around the world,” said Linden Blue, CEO at GA-ASI. “In our more than 25 years in business, GA-ASI has achieved a list of historic ‘firsts’ in [remotely piloted aircraft] development and we have leveraged those accomplishments to better support our customer’s requirements.”
The specific aircraft and customer that achieved the milestone is unknown, as every second of every day, 69 PREDATOR-class aircraft are airborne throughout the world. Flight hours have continued to grow at unprecedented rates in recent years, with 500,000 flight hours achieved from 1993 to 2008, one million in 2010, two million in 2012, three million in 2014, four million in 2016 and five million in 2018.
“The demand for persistent situational awareness using our RPA is demonstrated daily through the accumulation of flight hours. The demand for our aircraft is consistently answered by our team of employees, suppliers, and partners who work hard to meet our customers’ dynamic mission requirements,” observed David R Alexander, GA-ASI President. “Because of the dedication of our employees, our suppliers and partners, our aircraft have the highest mission capable rate in the USAF aircraft inventory.”
GA-ASI aircraft average more than 60,000 hours per month supporting the US military and government agencies, the Italian, French and British Air Forces, the UAE armed forces and other customers. Missions include: helping protect ground units on the battlefield; supporting US Customs & Border Protection operations; and supporting first responders in the wake of natural disasters.
GA-ASI has produced more than 900 aircraft and over 400 Ground Control Stations (GCS) to date. In addition to RPA and GCS, the company also produces processing, exploitation and dissemination (PED) systems, as well as sensor payloads that deliver radar and video imagery, detect moving targets on the ground and over water and provide signal intelligence (SIGINT) on signals of interest. GA-ASI also integrates the data products from these disparate sensors in real time via SATCOM data links to the GCS, that can be correlated and displayed as actionable intelligence for use in operations and intelligence centres around the world.