Gray Eagle MQ-1C is an extended ER/MP aircraft system (UAS) developed by the US Army General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. It is an improved version of the combat-proven aerial vehicle Predator.
Gray Eagle carries out missions of acknowledgment, monitoring, target acquisition, control and control, communications relay, intelligence (SIGINT), electronic warfare (EW), attack, improvised explosive device (IED), and fighting damage evaluation.
During the initial 7-month training and evaluation period, Gray Eagle aircraft performed more than 1,700 flight hours over a total of 238 flights.
Gray Eagle UAS F/227’s first full company was deployed in June 2012. The military plans to purchase 11 Warrior units, each of which includes 12 UAVs and five ground control units.
To date, 61 Gray Eagle aircraft have been transferred to the US Army with a further 44 aircraft on order.
Development of MQ-1C Gray Eagle
The UAV extended range competition to replace the RQ-5 Hunter was started by the US Army in 2002. Also competing in the competition were a upgraded version of the RQ-5 Hunter and the General Atomics Warrior.
The Warrior UAS was announced in August 2005 as its winner, and General Atomics received a $214 m system development and demonstration contract. The first aircraft was operational by 2009 under the $1bn program. The aircraft’s initial low-tate production (LRIP) was approved in March 2010.
The Warrior was appointed MQ-1C by the US Defense Department (DoD). In August 2010, the MQ-1C was officially named Gray Eagle. The Gray Eagle Quick Reaction Capability (QRC) units have been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan to fight aircraft.
In December 2009, the Grey Eagle was successfully integrated with the Hellfire missile AGM-114. The Hellfire rocket testing on the Gray Eagle ended in August 2010. The armed systems are intended primarily for deployment in Afghanistan.
The Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) review authorized the third acquisition of 29 aircraft and related equipment by LRIP in June 2012. The initial formal operational test and assessment (IOT&E) is scheduled for August 2012. Gray Eagle will officially showcase its capabilities during the IOT&E with the AH-64D Attack Block III.
Unmanned Aircraft System design and playload
The Gray Eagle features a fault tolerant control system based on the Predator airframe design. The aircraft has an architecture of three-dimensional avionics systems.
Compared with Predator, the UAS has an increased range. The modular architecture of Gray Eagle allows multiple payloads to be integrated and operated. Gray Eagle is nine meters long, 17 m wingspan and 2.1 m high.
Gray Eagle can carry 261 kg of domestic payload and 227 kg of external payload. It can carry several payloads, including an electronic / infraround (EO / IR) laser-designated, STARLite Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR)/GMTI sensor, a communication relay and four Hellfire missiles, respectively.
The hard points of the wing can be equipped with external loads like expendable sensors and weapons. The air-to-ground missiles AGM-114 fitted to the aircraft can target ground-based and fixed targets in the 500m-to-8 km range.
US Army Engine ER / MP UAS.
Thielert’s heavy-fuel engine drives Gray Eagle. The engine generates a 165hp power output. It supports the US Army concept of’ single fuel in the battlefield.’ The engine provides better fuel efficiency while combustion of either jet or diesel fuel.
The Gray Eagle Ground Control Station MQ-1C is operated by a single Ground Control Station (OSGCS). The OSGCS includes flight critical hardware and software mounted on the standard five-ton medium-tactical vehicle in a modular configuration.
The operator consoles are used to control, control payload and launch weapons operations.
Gray Eagle can fly up to 29,000 meters above sea level. It has a durability of over 30 hours. The UAS ‘ maximum gross starting weight is 1,633 kg. The maximum speed of the aircraft is 150KTAS.