Gov. Perry Announces Ellington Field to Receive New Predator Squadron
Reiterates Support for Keeping Base at Full Strength as BRAC Process Continues
Gov. Rick Perry today announced that Ellington Field in Houston will be home to a new squadron of Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicles as part of the Air Force's Total Future Force plan designed to prepare the military for the demands of the 21st Century.
"The Predator is not only critical to today's military missions, but also the missions of the future," Perry said. "I can think of no better home for a Predator squadron than Ellington Field, a base that is also essential to the military missions of today and tomorrow."
Perry said that Ellington Field was chosen for this mission because the base already has a large pool of well-trained pilots and support personnel, as well as the infrastructure needed to support such an important charge. "Locating the squadron here will also add greater protection for critical homeland infrastructure in the Houston area, such as the port and oil and gas facilities," Perry said.
The Predator plays an indispensable role in achieving military objectives. It provides vital intelligence for troops on the ground, is able to strike enemy targets with precision and stealth, and decreases the risks for combat personnel. In December 2003, a Predator controlled by satellite from Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada helped American soldiers in Iraq locate and capture Saddam Hussein.
The Houston base will be home to a squadron of 12 Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and will employ approximately 450 personnel, increasing Ellington Field's workforce by nearly 50 percent. In the summer of 2006, when the squadron becomes operational, the Texas Air National Guard will have the capability to keep a Predator in the air 12 hours every day, on training missions in Texas and over combat zones around the world.
Perry also reiterated his support for keeping the 147th Fighter Wing's F-16 aircraft stationed at Ellington Field. The Department of Defense has recommended realigning the base and removing its F-16 assets.
"I encourage the Base Realignment and Closure Commission to keep Ellington at full strength," Perry said. "Ellington's F-16 aircraft are capable of responding to emergency situations in a matter of minutes, and they are critical to the protection of the nation's fourth largest city, the area's large petrochemical sector and more than 700 miles of our nation's borders."
The Predator decision comes on the heels of the state's announcement last week to commit $50 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund as part of a $365 million incentive package aimed at enticing the DOD to move equipment and personnel and create a Navy Master Jet Base in the South Texas Coastal Bend Community. The package of incentives was developed after the Base Realignment and Closure Commission last month placed Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Va., home to a Master Jet Base, on the list of military bases recommended for closure.