Army orders 20 MQ-1C Gray Eagle attack and reconnaissance UAVs and control stations

May 11, 2017
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. – U.S. Army aviation experts are ordering 20 extended-range MQ-1C Gray Eagle reconnaissance and attack unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), as well as 20 satellite UAV control stations.
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. – U.S. Army aviation experts are ordering 20 extended-range MQ-1C Gray Eagle reconnaissance and attack unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), as well as 20 satellite UAV control stations.

Officials of the Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., announced a $221.6 million contract modification Tuesday to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. in Poway, Calif., for the Gray Eagle attack drones and satellite communications air data terminals.

The General Atomics MQ-1C Gray Eagle attack drone is a medium altitude long endurance (MALE) unmanned aircraft that is an upgraded MQ-1 Predator as an extended-range multi-purpose UAV. The aircraft can be fitted with the AGM-114 Hellfire missile or GBU-44/B Viper Strike guided bomb for attack missions.

In addition to the unmanned aircraft, Wednesday's order includes ground control stations; one mobile ground control station; nine universal ground data terminals; spare parts; ground support equipment; and program management. This order includes options for as many as five extended range Gray Eagle aircraft; five SATCOM air data terminals; and program management.

The Gray Eagle UAV has a synthetic aperture radar/ground moving target indicator (SAR-GMTI) system, and targeting capability from an AN/AAS-52 multi-spectral targeting system (MTS) under the nose. The aircraft can carry a payload of 800 pounds.

Related: General Atomics wins $110.3 million Army contract to maintain MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAVs

The MQ-1C Gray Eagle provides reconnaissance, surveillance, and target Acquisition; command and control; communications relay; signals intelligence; electronic warfare; attack; detection of weapons of mass destruction; battle damage assessment; and manned and unmanned teaming capabilities.

The Gray Eagle UAV provides Army division commanders with tactical capabilities for battlefield reconnaissance and air-to-ground attack. They are attached to the combat aviation brigade in each division. In each division the Gray Eagle UAVs support the division fires, battlefield surveillance brigades, brigade combat teams, Army Special Operations forces, and aerial exploitation battalions.

Compared with its predecessor, the MQ-1 Predator, the Gray Eagle has an increased wingspan, and is powered by a Thielert Centurion 1.7 heavy fuel engine (HFE) able to burn jet and diesel fuel. It can fly for as long as 36 hours at altitudes to 25,000 feet. It has an operating range of 200 nautical miles.

The UAV is 28 feet long, has a wingspan of 56 feet, and is nearly seven feet high. The unmanned aircraft, which also uses the Northrop Grumman AN/ZPY-1 STARLite radar system, first flew in 2004 and has been deployed since 2009.

Related: Army to build special UAV airport at Fort Bliss for Grey Eagle and Shadow unmanned aircraft

Army commanders deploy the Gray Eagle UAV in platoons, each with four aircraft, support equipment, and payloads like electro-optical/infrared/laser range finder/laser designator; communications relay; and as many as four hellfire missiles.

The common sensor payload and synthetic aperture radar ground moving target indicator are one per aircraft. ground equipment per platoon includes two universal ground control stations; three universal ground data terminals; one satellite communication ground data terminal; and one mobile ground control station per company.

Gray Eagle platoons also have an automated take off and landing system, two tactical automatic landing systems, and ground support equipment to include ground-based sense and avoid.

On this order General Atomics will do the work in Poway, Calif., and should be finished by September 2018. For more information contact General Atomics Aeronautical Systems online at, or the Army Contracting Command-Redstone at

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About the Author

John Keller | Editor

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

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