General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) announced on 25 January the inaugural flight of the Gray Eagle 25M (GE-25M) Unmanned Aircraft System at its El Mirage, California, flight facility. 

The event is an important step in the ongoing modernisation effort of the Gray Eagle program, part of the US Army’s initiative to enhance its Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) capabilities.

The upgraded GE-25M is equipped with more powerful generators and advanced avionics, and can accommodate a range of advanced sensors, electronic warfare pods, and other payloads. 

The first flight occurred on December 5 2023, shortly after GA-ASI was awarded a contract, capped at $389m, for the production of the GE-25M test aircraft on December 1, 2023. The focus of this first flight was to evaluate key operational aspects of the aircraft, particularly its upgraded flight computer, and test the aircraft’s new HFE 2.0 engine and power generation systems.

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These improvements, developed in collaboration with Project Manager Endurance Uncrewed Aircraft Systems (PM EUAS), are designed to reduce maintenance requirements and eliminate the need for frequent overhauls. The GE-25M is anticipated to remain operational in the Army, serving both active duty and National Guard units, into the 2050s.

David R. Alexander, President of GA-ASI, highlighted the importance of the GE-25M’s reliability and reduced maintenance needs, emphasising its ability to operate effectively with less labour and equipment. “In an MDO environment, Soldiers need the aircraft to operate with increased reliability along with reduced manning and equipment, which is why GE-25M significantly reduces the maintenance required on the aircraft.” 

In 2021, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems successfully completed the initial production acceptance test procedure flights for the Gray Eagle extended range (GE-ER) unmanned aircraft system (UAS) in collaboration with the US Army. The GE-ER UAS was designed to provide extended surveillance, communications relay, and weapons delivery capabilities for military operations. 

Additional reporting from Harry McNeil.