General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) has started flight testing of MQ-1C Gray Eagle Extended Range (ER) unmanned aircraft system (UAS) at its El Mirage flight operations facility in Adelanto, California, US.
GA-ASI claims that the MQ-1C Gray Eagle ER has been designed to increase endurance and payload capacity of the Gray Eagle UAS.
GA-ASI aircraft systems president David R Alexander said: “The flight of our capital MQ-1C Gray Eagle ER UAS is a significant milestone in the continued evolution of the MQ-1C programme with our US Army customer.
“This marks the next step in delivering the aircraft’s increased endurance and payload capability to the warfighter.”
The ongoing flight testing is due for completion in next June, following which the US Army will begin evaluating the drone as part of second follow-on operational test and evaluation late next year.
Designed to operate for more than 40h, MQ-1C ER supports attack, electronic warfare, intelligence, surveillance reconnaissance missions for the army.
Powered by an upgraded HFE-180 heavy fuel engine, the aircraft provides increased horsepower and reliability.
The new engine began flight tests on Block 1 Gray Eagle in February, the statement said.
The medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) aircraft is also fitted with an improved cooling system and high-performance induction system.
The first four aircraft are expected to be delivered in Q2 and Q3 next year, with an additional 15 in 2018.