The Aircraft Addresses An Ever-Increasing Demand For Greater
Range, Altitude, Endurance And Payload Flexibility
Despite defense budget constraints, the Army's Unmanned Aircraft
Systems are growing, especially the Gray Eagle program. "And with
the budget movements afoot for the 2012 fiscal year, we will
accelerate the Gray Eagle from two companies per year to three
companies per year," said Tim Owens, deputy project manager for
Unmanned Aircraft Systems.
Owens was among Army leaders speaking at the Association of the
U.S. Army Aviation Symposium and Exposition which brought more than
500 military, government and industry professionals to discuss how
to best sustain and acquire the required materiel to directly
support the aviation warfighter and combatant commander during
Although the theme for the Jan. 12 to 14 event at the Gaylord
National Hotel and Convention Center was "Full Spectrum Aviation:
Resilient and Adaptive for the Future Security Environment," the
Unmanned Aircraft System garnered much interest with its ability to
save lives on missions that are often referred to as too dull,
dirty or dangerous for manned aircraft.
"We also expect to be funded to fill our needs for both video
and wide-area surveillance capability," Owens said of the UAS
program, adding that the Army will be asking for procurement of
five additional attrition aircraft in February.
The Gray Eagle, one of the largest programs managed by UAS, will
provide combatant commanders a much-improved real-time responsive
capability to conduct long-swell, wide-area reconnaissance,
surveillance, target acquisition, communications relay, and attack
missions, Owens said.
The Gray Eagle addresses an ever-increasing demand for greater
range, altitude, endurance and payload flexibility. At 3,200
pounds, this UAS has improved take-off and landing performance,
coupled with the flexibility to operate with or without satellite
communications data links. These are just some of the
characteristics that make this system a combat multiplier. "Gray
Eagle is really the ultimate enabler for what we're trying to do,"
said Owens. "With the Shadow class of systems at brigade and the
smaller class at battalion and below, you need to have a way to cue
those systems to the targets, which we do with a variety of intel
feeds," Owens said. "But the Gray Eagle will allow us to carry
wide-area surveillance sensors, a wider array of payloads, and
become a top-level cueing platform for us. It also becomes the
network enabler in order for us to increase dissemination, not just
from Gray Eagle, but from our other stuff because you can pass the
information through Gray Eagle to the ground and things of that
nature. So from that perspective, it is super important."
Lt. Col. Jennifer Jensen, product manager for Common Systems
Integrations, Unmanned Aircraft Systems, said a demonstration of
these capabilities will occur at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, later
this year. "The Army has always been seen as a leader in making our
systems as interoperable as possible. So, we're going to leverage
off the one system remote video terminal that we started fielding
in 2007 and expand that capability to the manned aircraft, because
we put that technology into the Apache and the OH-58 and also the
command and control Black Hawk," Jensen said.