Whiteman Air Force Base will soon have another mission, this time guiding military airplanes without pilots.
Whiteman is home to the B-2 stealth bomber. It soon will be home to the squadron that controls the unmanned Predator drone aircraft.
West-Central Missouri Congressman Ike Skelton says Whiteman will become home to 280 military and civilian personnel who remotely fly the aircraft, though that aircraft will be elsewhere.
“You see, they’re stationed literally all over the world; right now, of course, in the Middle East,” says Skelton. “The controllers, that is the control pilots and all that support them, will be right there at Whiteman Air Force Base.”
Predators have proven accurate and deadly in the war on terror, credited with striking down key al Qaeda leaders. The official name is MQ-1 Predator and the personnel moving to Missouri will be officially called the MQ-1 Remote Split Operation squadron and ground control. The Air Force expects the squadron to be in operation by February 2011. Another Predator squadron, operating the MQ-9, will be stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base in San Diego, which is scheduled to be in operation by May 2012.
Skelton says Whiteman still has room to grow. He notes that 1,100 additional acres have been added to the base, increasing not just the size of the base located near Knob Noster but its potential capability.
“I’m very, very proud of Whiteman; very, very proud of the people who are there and the support that the local folks give them,” says Skelton.