General Atomics has been awarded $40 million by the U.S. Army for services on the Gray Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle. An essential element of the U.S. Army’s Aviation Modernization Plan, GA-ASI’s Gray Eagle Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) is an innovative and technologically advanced derivative of the combat-proven Predator®. Gray Eagle offers a reliable, affordable, low-risk, and compelling next-generation tactical UAS solution to meet challenging service requirements for persistent Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition (RSTA) and attack operations. The contract modification, announced Thursday by the Department of Defense, falls under Army fiscal operations and maintenance funding as is expected to be completed by June 2019.
The Gray Eagle is a development of the Predator drone designed for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and strike operations. It can stay in the air for over a day and reach altitudes of over five miles. It is capable of carrying over one thousand pounds of sensors or weapons. It can mount electro-optical and infrared cameras for target detection and can carry four Hellfire laser-guided missiles. The Gray Eagle has its own laser designator, which means it can direct its own missiles or provide guidance for weapons launched by other platforms. Other capabilities include an automatic take-off and landing system that enables it to launch and land without any direct control from ground personnel. The drone can use any sort of standard aviation fuel, according to General Atomics, reducing it’s logistical burden. It is one of the standard tactical drones in use by the U.S. Army.
A Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance (MALE) UAV, the Gray Eagle has an increased wingspan and is powered by a Thielert Centurion 1.7 Heavy Fuel Engine (HFE). The aircraft can carry a payload of 800 pounds (360 kg) and may be armed with weapons such as AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and GBU-44/B Viper Strike guided bombs. Its sensors can fuse infrared imagery and use the SAR to scan and detect changes in terrain like tire tracks, footprints, and buried improvised explosive devices when performing a second scan. This long-range, long-dwell UAS is dedicated to direct operational control by Army field commanders. Its expansive mission set includes, but is not limited, to wide-area Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), convoy protection, Improvised Explosive Device (IED) detection and defeat, close air support, communications relay, and weapons delivery missions.
The General Atomics MQ-1C Gray Eagle (previously the Warrior; also called Sky Warrior and ERMP or Extended-Range Multi-Purpose) is a medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aircraft system (UAS). It was developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) for the United States Army as an upgrade of the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator. Gray Eagle has an endurance of 25 hours, speeds up to167 KTAS, can operate up to 29,000 feet, and carries 1,075 lb (488 kg) of internal and external payload. The aircraft can carry multiple payloads aloft, including Electro-optical/Infrared (EO/IR) with laser designation, Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), communications relay, and four Hellfire missiles. Compared to the Predator predecessor, Gray Eagle’s Heavy Fuel Engine (HFE) supports the Army’s “single fuel in the battlefield” concept and provides increased horsepower and significantly improved fuel efficiency, utilizing either jet or diesel fuel.