Early Fielding Results Demonstrate Aircraft's Capability
The first full company of Gray Eagle UAS, F/227, has been deployed into active service, according to manufacturer General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. Following training and internal Army evaluation exercises, F/227 is now deployed with 12 aircraft. Gray Eagle aircraft logged over 1,700 flight hours during a total of 238 flights over the initial seven-month training and evaluation period. In the meantime, a second Gray Eagle company is currently staging its equipment in conjunction with readiness level operator and maintainer training.
“Gray Eagle will provide F/227 with 24/7 RSTA [Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition], precision attack, and communications relay capabilities,” said Frank W. Pace, president, Aircraft Systems Group, GA-ASI. “This system fielding does not rely on a legacy Ground Control Station [GCS], showing our total commitment to the One System GCS/ Universal GCS combined with the Tactical Controlled Data Link [TCDL] architecture.”
Prior to the establishment of F/227, two groups of four aircraft each were deployed to Afghanistan via two Quick Reaction Capability (QRC) initiatives. These QRCs are designed to support the Warfighter, in addition to providing valuable lessons learned for the concurrently developing Program of Record. The QRCs also bring the added advantage of getting valuable technology into the hands of the Soldiers more quickly.
“The Gray Eagle UAS is providing unprecedented value to the operators,” said Richard Kretzschmar, deputy project manager, PM UAS, U.S. Army. “The feedback we’re getting from the QRCs is that this is a game-changing capability.”
Gray Eagle supported the Apache Block III Initial Operational Test & Evaluation (IOT&E) in April to demonstrate manned-unmanned teaming in support of commanders and Soldiers. The Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) review was conducted on June 1 and authorized the program to proceed with a third Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) purchase of 29 aircraft and supporting equipment, followed by IOT&E in August 2012. To date, GA-ASI has delivered 61 Gray Eagle aircraft to the Army, with another 44 aircraft currently on order. (Photos provided by the U.S. Army)