this would be an interesting place to go take some photos of!!!!

Squadron of Predators to be based in Arizona

David Madrid The Arizona Republic Mar. 15, 2006 12:00 AM

The Arizona National Guard will field the Air Force's newest Predator squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson and Fort Huachuca near Sierra Vista.

The new drone squadron will require an additional 120 personnel, and that number could reach 350 by the time the unit is fully staffed and operational.

The squadron will be made up of pilots, sensor operators, and maintenance and support workers.

Predators are unmanned aerial systems, or drones, flown by remote control. The drones are long-endurance, medium-altitude aircraft used mainly for surveillance and to gather information. They also can carry weaponry and have been used in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Pentagon initially delayed the Predator squadron indefinitely until Gov. Janet Napolitano, Sen. John McCain and Rep. Jim Kolbe intervened and persuaded the Defense Department to base the squadron in Arizona.

The state's climate and its training environment were key factors in the decision to base the squadron in Arizona.

The new unit will begin operations in December.

Jeanine L'Ecuyer, a spokeswoman for the governor, said Tuesday that the new squadron is positive for Arizona.

"This is going to be kind of a neat deal," L'Ecuyer said.

L'Ecuyer said that the additional personnel that will come with the squadron will make up for some of the personnel losses because of the recent Base Realignment and Closure Commission. Fort Huachuca's losses were relatively minor.

Since the first Predator flight in 1995, the drones have flown more than 3,000 missions and more than 130,000 flight hours, half of which were flown during combat deployments to the Balkans, Southwest Asia and the Middle East.

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