Predator reaches a milestone

Remotely piloted Predator aircraft reached a milestone this month when airmen from the 11th Reconnaissance Squadron at Creech Air Force Base flew one that surpassed the combined 250,000 flying hours for the fleet, Air Force officials said Tuesday.

An MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle achieved the mark on June 22 with Maj. Robert Forino at the pilot controls and Senior Airman Christopher Ayers in the sensor operator's seat.

The plane can be controlled from ground stations via satellite link thousands of miles away from the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Creech Air Force Base, in Indian Springs 45 miles northwest of Las Vegas, is the home of the Predator. The spy plane is equipped with high-tech, near-real-time video cameras and some carry laser-guided Hellfire missiles.

The first Predators were deployed to the Balkans in support of NATO operations in former Yugoslavia shortly after they entered the service in 1995.