Friday, February 26, 2010

Gray Eagle - New Predator Variants

Weapons tests of the Army’s MQ-1C Sky Warrior, a heavily modified derivative of the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) Predator A, were successfully completed following the last live firings of nine Hellfire P+ missiles. A post-test review identified “minor technical and desired fixes,” and that an “ updated software release will be verification-tested in March from GA-ASI El Mirage flight operations facility.”

The MQ-1C, soon to be redesignated the Gray Eagle —currently also known as the Army’s extended range/multipurpose (ER/MP) unmanned aircraft system —is being fast-tracked into service with newly formed quick reaction capability (QRC) units in Iraq and Afghanistan. The updated release will be used to support soldier training prior to a limited user test scheduled for May, and subsequent fielding slated for July .

The weapons tests, which began at the U.S. Naval Air Weapons Center at China Lake in late November, are part of preparations to arm aircraft for a second quick-reaction unit, QRC-2. The first QRC unit was created during Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance surge and is deployed in Iraq with four unarmed aircraft providing long-endurance, wide-area reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition and communications relay capability.

GA-ASI says it also “preparing proposals” to support low-rate initial production of the MQ-1C following the Army’s Feb. 2 announcement that the UAV had successfully completed the Milestone C review. The San Diego-based manufacturer now expects a contract award in March for 26 aircraft to be delivered in 2012.

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