SOUTHWEST ASIA --
The 361st Expeditionary Attack Squadron held a ceremony commemorating the MQ-1B Predator and its final flight with the squadron, July 2, 2017, in Southwest Asia.
All the MQ-1Bs piloted by the 361st EATKS are scheduled to return stateside and be retired in 2018.
“The aircrew’s accomplishments with the MQ-1 were amazing,” said Lt. Col. Douglas, 361st EATKS commander. “It’s a very humble aircraft, but we’ve brought a lot to the fight with its modest capabilities. The aircraft’s mission is tremendous and it has opened the doors to the future.”
In the 18 months the MQ-1B was assigned to the 361st Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, later designated as the 361st EATKS, its aircrew flew the aircraft on more than 2,000 combat missions, 36,000 persistence attack and reconnaissance hours, and fired 358 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, greatly contributing to the fight against ISIS.
“The predator has been a workhorse in Iraq, Afghanistan and the fight against ISIS,” Douglas said. “When you see the results everyday on the battlefield it’s unfathomable at times.”
With the M-Q1Bs departing, the void it would have left behind has already been filled by the new MQ-9 Reaper, Block 5 variant, which brings new capabilities to the fight and has already flown its first combat mission in the AOR.
“The MQ-1 was a great capability, but the MQ-9 brings extra speed, weapons and a better sensor package,” Douglas said. “For me personally it’s bitter sweet to see it go, but the MQ-9 that is replacing it brings a lot more to the fight; and, at the end of the day what's important is the capability we bring to the ground forces and ground commander.”
The day prior the 361st EATKS completed its final combat mission with the MQ-1B in their area of responsibility.
“At the end of the day it was kind of luck of the draw to be a part of the final combat mission, but it’s something I will be telling people about for a long time,” said Maj. Brian, 361st EATKS pilot. “It has been are really good aircraft.”