US national defence capabilities, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., headquartered in Poway, California, has clinched a $389m contract to supply the US Army with MQ-1C-25M Gray Eagle modernised extended-range drone systems. 

The Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, awarded the deal.

The recent contract was a fixed-price incentive agreement. The MQ-1C-25M Gray Eagle has surveillance capabilities and will undergo modernisation to enhance its range and functionality.

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 is designed to provide extended surveillance, communications relay, and weapons delivery capabilities for military operations. 

These drones, expected for delivery by November 29, 2024, are poised to play a role in the US Army’s strategic reconnaissance and surveillance missions.

The MQ-1C-25M Gray Eagle modernised extended range system represents a leap forward in military reconnaissance capabilities, offering a tool for monitoring and responding to diverse threats. 

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General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) achieved a milestone on June 15, 2023, with the inaugural flight of its 200-horsepower heavy fuel engine 2.0 on a Gray Eagle aircraft at the El Mirage flight facility. 

This engine, part of GA-ASI’s internal research and development programme initiated in 2016, aims to replace the current 180-horsepower engine used in the Gray Eagle extended-range unmanned aircraft system. 

In 2022, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems successfully tested advanced datalink and avionics enhancements for the MQ-1C Gray Eagle extended-range unmanned aircraft system as part of a US Army-funded programme to upgrade the UAS. 

Using common hardware and software, the tests demonstrated the GE-ER’s ability to maintain connection and support high-bandwidth data rates with geostationary earth orbit Ku/Ka-band satellites and medium earth orbit Ka-band satellites. This advancement allows the UAS to perform uninterrupted flight operations over multiple satellite constellations.