The US Army has awarded a contract to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (G-ASI) for full-rate production and supply of Improved Gray Eagle (IGE) unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).
Under the contract, whose value remains undisclosed, the company will supply a total of 19 IGEs, which are next-generation advanced derivative of the army's combat-proven Block 1 Gray Eagle UAS.
GA-ASI CEO Linden Blue said: "We are very pleased that the army has awarded us this production contract for IGE, which delivers a high-value solution for accomplishing multiple mission types, all at an affordable cost.
"IGE provides better endurance, additional payload capacity, easier maintenance, and extended lifecycle of critical components."
Developed on internal research and development funds, the drone leverages its predecessor's success to deliver improved capabilities that will perform intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance collection and close air support of ground force.
Equipped with a variety of sensor and weapons payloads, the UAS can easily be fielded with baseline Gray Eagle units due to limited differences in operation, maintenance, and training between the two aircraft types.
The drone has many hardware and software commonalities with Gray Eagle and can be based, maintained, and operated in the same units, as well as at the same locations as its predecessor, providing the army with flexibility in manning and logistics to support UAS operations.
Engineered with a maximum gross takeoff weight of 4,200lbs, IGE can stay airborne for nearly 40 hours, surpassing the army's requirement for 14 hours on station at 1,000km for all mission types, including reconnaissance, surveillance, communications relay, as well as electronic warfare and attack.
The drone features open, modular architecture and its straight belly design allows for carriage of 850lbs of internal fuel load, while a centreline hard point can accommodate an optional fuel pod with an additional 450lbs.
Deliveries under the contract are scheduled to complete by September 2018.
Image: A US Army's new MQ-1 Gray Eagle UAS in flight. Photo: courtesy of US Army.