The US Army’s MQ-1C unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is having its weapons capability tested with the live firing of several Hellfire missiles.

The General Atomics MQ-1C Warrior is based on the Predator and has been designed for use in Afghanistan. It will soon be renamed Gray Eagle UAV.

The aircraft will enter service with the US Army’s newly-formed quick reaction capability (QRC) units in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As part of the tests, it has already fired two Hellfire shots at the US Naval Air Weapons Center at China Lake, California.

US Army project manager Colonel Gregory Gonzalez said the test phase, expected to include as many as eight more missile firings, will conclude by 18 December 2009.

“The initial operational test and evaluation phase for the UAV is scheduled for 2011,” Gonzalez said.

A total of eight MQ-1C aircraft making up the QRC-1 and two units are being built to the same block one production standard.

The aircraft are powered by heavy-fuel, 160hp Thielert 2.0l engines that have been cleared for operations to 30,000ft.

They will be deployed with the Lynx Block 30 synthetic aperture radar that provides all-weather moving target indication to 23km at coverage rates of up to 5km/sec and at imaging resolutions down to 4in at 20km and 1ft at 50km range, according to General Atomics.

General Atomics is expected to start low-rate initial production by February 2010.