The Air Force is moving quickly — by 2018 — to send its entire Predator fleet to the boneyard:
As reported last week on Flightglobal.com, the U.S. Air Force “is currently on track to retire all [145 of its] MQ-1 Predators and move to an all-MQ-9 fleet with an estimated completion in 2018.” News mil-tech website FoxtrotAlpha lamented that “throngs of perfectly flyable MQ-1s” will “be sent to the boneyard.”
Apparently, the plan is not just to mothball these Predators for use at a later date. Rather, the drones will be placed in “non-recoverable storage” — left to rot in the Arizona desert. Henceforth, their duties will be taken over by General Atomics’ successor aircraft, the much larger MQ-9 Reaper.
It’s amazing in an age of 10-15 year development cycles, and 20-50 year service lives for manned aircraft, that drones get designed, built, deployed, replaced, and retired in such short order.