General Atomics MQ-1C Grey Eagle

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Introduction
The General Atomics MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAS (previously the Warrior and also called Sky Warrior and ERMP (Extended-Range Multi-Purpose) by General Atomics) is a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) unmanned aircraft system (UAS) under development by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI), funded by United States Army. It is an upgrade of the MQ-1 Predator.

Development
The U.S. Army initiated the Extended-Range Multi-Purpose UAV competition in 2002, with the winning aircraft due to replace the RQ-5 Hunter. Two aircraft were entered, the IAI/Northrop Grumman Hunter II, and the Warrior. In August 2005, the Army announced the Warrior to be the winner and awarded a $214 million contract for system development and demonstration. The Army intends to procure eleven Warrior systems, each of these units has twelve UAVs and five ground control stations. With an expected total program cost of $1 billion, the aircraft became operational in 2009.

The Army sought to have the Warrior designated MQ-12, but the United States Department of Defense allocated the designation MQ-1C instead. The drones are planned to be operated by Task Force ODIN in Iraq and/or Afghanistan. In August 2010, the US Army announced that the MQ-1C had officially been assigned the name Grey Eagle. The Army announced on 3 September 2010 that the integration of the AGM-114 Hellfire missile on the Grey Eagle had been so successful that 4 weaponized Grey Eagles would be deployed to Afghanistan in late 2010.

Design
A Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance (MALE) UAV, the Gray Eagle has an increased wingspan and is powered by a Thielert Centurion 1.7 Heavy Fuel Engine (HFE).This is a Diesel piston engine that burns jet fuel, giving the aircraft better performance at high altitudes. It will be capable of operating for 36 hours at altitudes up to 25,000 feet (7,600 m), with an operating range of 200 nautical miles (400 km).

The aircraft’s nose fairing has been enlarged to house a Synthetic Aperture Radar/Ground Moving Target Indicator (SAR-GMTI) system, and targeting is also provided with an AN/AAS-52 Multi-spectral Targeting System (MTS) under the nose. The aircraft can carry a payload of 800 pounds (360 kg) and may be armed with weapons such as AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and GBU-44/B Viper Strike guided bombs.

Reliability Problems
Beginning in March 2011, Gray Eagles started showing poor reliability across all major subsystems. During that month, one Gray Eagle crashed in California when a faulty chip blocked a subsystem from sending commands to part of the aircraft’s flight control surfaces. Flight testing was delayed, was resumed when the chip was replaced, but left the drone with fewer available flight hours. The average time between failures of the aircraft or components is 25 hours, while the minimum required is 100 hours. The ground control station’s time between failures is 27 hours, while the minimum time required is 150 hours. Sensors fail at 134 hours, compared to 250 hours required. In October 2011, a report concluded the Gray Eagle was meeting only four out of seven “key performance parameters,” and its reliability continued to fall short of predicted growth. Software fixes have led to 11 unplanned software revisions, but has generally improved reliability.

Operational History
The Army’s 1st Infantry Division’s combat aviation brigade deployed to Iraq with developmental Grey Eagles in June 2010.

The Army will perform the initial Operational Test and Evaluation (OT&E) of the Gray Eagle in July and August 2012.

On June 2, 2012, the Gray Eagle reached a record 10,000 successful automatic launch and recoveries with the Automatic Takeoff and Landing System (ATLS). The system also landed with a 26 knot crosswind. By July 25, 2012, the Army’s Gray Eagle Block 1 aircraft has accumulated more than 35,000 flight hours since it was first deployed in 2008. There are currently 50 aircraft in service with a greater than 80% system operational availability rate.

On June 25, 2012, the Gray Eagle was deployed in its first full company of 12 aircraft.

Specs
Powerplant: 1 × Thielert Centurion 1.7 Heavy-Fuel Engine, 165 HP ()

ModelLength
(m)
Wingspan
(m)
Height
(m)
Max. Takeoff Weight
(kg)
Max Speed
(km/h)
Range
(km)
Endurance
(hours)
Ceiling
(m)
Payload
(kg)
MQ-1C Grey Eagle8172.11451250400368840360

Manufacturer
CountryNameHeadquartersURL
USAGeneral Atomics Aeronautical SystemsSan Diego, Californiahttp://www.ga-asi.com/