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CRAFT WON'T COME HERE PREDATOR STAYS IN LAS VEGAS.

Byline: Jim Skeen Staff Writer

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE - The Air Force announced Monday it will terminate environmental studies examining Edwards Air Force Base and a New Mexico base as possible homes for Predator unmanned spy planes.

Air Combat Command announced it will keep all of the Predator aircraft at Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary Field near Las Vegas, meaning an addition of 443 personnel and 12 aircraft to the air base.

Edwards and Holloman Air Force Base had been considered as possible homes for the aircraft and studies examining the environmental impacts of the basing the planes were under way when the decision was made to consolidate all Predators at Indian Springs.

Gen. Hal Hornburg, commander of Air Combat Command, chose Indian Springs because it proved to meet all selection criteria, and it allows the Air Force to efficiently match manpower requirements with the Predator systems, the Air Force said.

The Predator - a propeller-driven, 2,100-pound craft guided by operators on the ground linked by radio signals and satellite - has been used by the Air Force in combat since 1995 in Bosnia to spy on enemy forces.

In Afghanistan, Yemen and Iraq, Predators were fitted with anti-tank Hellfire missiles and used to attack vehicles traveling along roads.

An environmental assessment released last year found no significant environmental impact from adding the additional Predators at Indian Springs. The Nevada base already has 40 of the unarmed, earlier RQ-1 Predators.

The newer versions are the MQ-1, the same size as the RQ-1 but equipped to carry missiles - and the MQ-9 Hunter-Killer, a larger turboprop version able to operate at 40,000 to 50,000 feet. All are made by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems in San Diego.

The Air Force had considered Edwards and Holloman because of their restricted air space. Holloman lies near the White Sands missile range, and Edwards is at the southern edge of a restricted air space zone that extends nearly to Bishop.

The Indian Springs Predators already fly from Nevada to the range north of Edwards for some of their flights, Air Force documents show.

Jim Skeen, (661) 267-5743

james.skeen(at)dailynews.com

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

The Predator aircraft will stay at Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary Field near Las Vegas, adding 443 personnel and 12 aircraft to the base.

Jeff Goldwater/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 16, 2004
Words:389
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