The United States Army is set to acquire nineteen Gray Eagle unmanned aircraft vehicles (UAV) from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems in Poway. According to the Defense Department, the deal is worth nearly USD$133 million and includes a variety of support equipment.
The MQ-1C Gray Eagle
is a medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) UAV. It can fly continuously for twenty-five hours at up to 167 KTAS at altitudes of up to 29,000 feet. It carries over half a ton of internal and external payload, and is able to fire four Hellfire missiles.
According to General Atomics Aeronautical, the aircraft has a wing span of 56 feet, a length of 28 feet, and its powerplant is a Thielert 165 HP heavy-fuel engine. Its objective is to provide long-endurance, persistent intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and tactical strike capabilities.
Some of the features and benefits of the Gray Eagle include:
- Technologically advanced derivative of the combat-proven Predator UAV
- Dedicated to direct operational control by U.S. Army field commanders
- Unprecedented reliability
- Triple-redundant avionics and flight controls
- Redundant flight control surfaces
- Common Data Link (CDL) line-of-sight communications/air data relay communications
- Satellite communications
- Open, modular architecture supports integration of three payloads simultaneously, with capacity for growth
- Automatic takeoff and landing reduces pilot workload
- De-icing system
- HFE offsets the logistical need for special fuels on the battlefield
- Controlled by the U.S. Army One System Ground Control Station (OSGCS)
- C-130 transportable
The existing operational fleet of Predator B UAVs – which are known as the MQ-9 Reaper – recently reached a total of one million flight hours, the majority of which were in combat. The Reaper was able to reach this milestone by flying 78,606 sorties since its debut on February 2nd, 2001.
The aircraft is flown over 700 hours per day by the US Air Force, Italian Air Force, UK Air Force, French Air Force, US Department of Homeland Security, and NASA.
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