Army Looking for Lightweight weapons for UAS Platforms


he Army could be looking to expand the lethality of its drone fleet, recently issuing a request for information for small guided munitions that can be outfitted to rotary wing and unmanned aerial systems. Specifically, the Army said its primary interest is in weapons of 60 pounds or less—and preferably in the 25-pounds range.

Additionally, these weapon systems should be able to engage both moving and stationary targets that include lightly armored vehicles, fleeting light vehicles and dismounted combatants in day and night conditions, with low collateral damage.

The Army already operates UASs with lethal payloads such as the medium-altitude, long-range MQ-1C Gray Eagle that can carry four Hellfire missiles weighing roughly 100 pounds each.

Hellfire missiles – the primary munition outfitted on unmanned aircraft associated with the controversial targeted killing program run by the CIA using the dual surveillance and strike capability of drones – have been described by many, such as former CIA director Michael Hayden, as one the most accurate and humane forms of targeting, given their precision and small warheads that limit collateral damage.

The Army is not releasing details regarding the platforms, regions or units the armaments being requested would be applied to, saying that information is too sensitive, a contracting employee told Defense Systems. “Inquiries regarding sensitive information such as specific platforms, Army units and regions will not be addressed in this forum,” the RFI states.

As such, it is not clear if the Army wishes to arm smaller UAS platforms such as the MQ-5B or the RQ-7B Shadow, or if it wishes to apply the desired technology to the Gray Eagle, potentially freeing coveted size, weight and power requirements for additional payloads.

Army officials have indicated in the past that they are interested in taking weight off of certain UAS platforms to increase payload capacity. Additionally, they have discussed potentially weaponizing the Shadow, an aircraft with a 14-foot wingspan that has been used for surveillance, target acquisition and battle damage assessment.

“Weaponing Shadow comes at a cost to the commander who now has to maybe trade station time and fuel for a payload,” Col. Thomas Von Eschenbach, the director of the capabilities integration center at TRADOC, told reporters last fall.  “It depends on what it weighs and what it can do. So at what cost would it take, and what munition would that do? We’re not ruling it out [but] on the current Shadow system, that’s a challenge.”

There has also been talk of changing the armament of the Gray Eagle to include other weapons than just Hellfire missiles.


Another 1st; Gray Eagle | Apache Conducts Manned-Unmanned Teaming in South Korea


SAN DIEGO – 18 November 2015 – General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI), a leading manufacturer of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) systems, radars, and electro-optic and related mission systems solutions, today announced that a U.S. Army Gray Eagle Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) recently conducted manned-unmanned teaming exercises in South Korea. Exercise support was conducted in August 2015 from Kunsan Air Base, South Korea.

“These flights represent a major milestone for the MQ-1C Gray Eagle as they successfully demonstrated manned-unmanned teaming in South Korea and proved the aircraft’s ability to conduct operations in diverse weather conditions that are typical on the Korean Peninsula,” said Frank W. Pace, president, Aircraft Systems, GA-ASI. “They also marked a new company milestone for Gray Eagle with its first mission in South Korean airspace.”

During the exercise, the Gray Eagle UAS streamed video and metadata via a line-of-sight data link directly to a U.S. Army AH-64 Apache helicopter from extended distances. The Apache subsequently was able to re-transmit the imagery to a One System Remote Video Terminal (OSRVT), allowing ground forces to view the video from the helicopter. Field commanders within the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) were able to receive both live Gray Eagle streaming video and re-transmitted video sent by the Apache. Once Gray Eagle was airborne, U.S. ground forces passed contact reports and target coordinates to operators in the aircraft’s One System Ground Control Station (OSGCS). The operators were then able to direct the Gray Eagle’s sensors to positively identify and track the targets.

Technologically advanced and combat proven, the MQ-1C Gray Eagle is an Army Division and Echelons Above Division organic asset directly controlled by Army field commanders. Its expansive mission set includes persistent, broad-area Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition (RSTA); communications relay; convoy protection; Improvised Explosive Device (IED) detection; pattern of life analysis; and precision weapons delivery. A key force multiplier, Gray Eagle has an endurance of up to 25 hours, an operating altitude of up to 25,000 feet, and payload capacity of over 1,000 pounds.

SOURCE | More..

It’s Official, Improved Gray Eagle to Enter Production for US Army


The Army has awarded a contract to General Atomics for full-rate production of 19 Improved Gray Eagle (IGE) unmanned aerial systems, the company has announced. The systems will be delivered by September 2018.

General Atomics also manufactures the highly acclaimed Predator and larger Reaper, both of which are operated by the Air Force.

According to General Atomics, “IGE is a next-generation advanced derivative of the Army’s mission-proven Gray Eagle UAS that has accumulated over 228,000 flight hours since 2008.” While the Gray Eagleand Improved Gray Eagle are very similar in terms of air speed, flights ceiling and payload, they differ in endurance. The IGE’s endurance capability is almost double that of the Gray Eagle—48 hours to 25 hours respectively—though the Army lists the Gray Eagle’s endurance at greater than 30 hours in its UAS Roadmap.

The Gray Eagle is weaponized, capable of carrying four Hellfire missiles. The IGE will deliver “improved, game-changing capabilities that will perform ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] collection and close air support of ground forces through longer persistence, a variety of sensor and weapons payloads, and extended range that affords the ability to operate from safe locations and transit into areas of conflict,” General Atomics said.

Since there are relatively few differences in software and operation, the IGE can be easily integrated with existing Gray Eagle units.

As the Defense Department seeks to increase the number of daily drone orbits, or combat air patrols, by  nearly 50 percent by 2019, DOD will be relying on the Army, Special Operations Command and, to a smaller degree, contractors to pick up the extra slack from the Air Force, which will operate 60 CAPs. By 2019, DOD wants 90 CAPS to address the gaps in aerial ISR with threats seeming to continue to proliferate.

SOURCE | More..

GA-ASI building training school for drone operators


GRAND FORKS, N.D., Sept. 23 (UPI) — General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. says it is to open a training academy on Grand Forks Air Base in North Dakota for operators of its remotely piloted aircraft.

A 10-year lease for its site has been signed and ground breaking is expected soon, with operations beginning next year.

“The mission of the GA-ASI Training Academy is to increase the overall capacity for flight crew training on our aircraft systems,” said Linden P. Blue, GA-ASI chief executive officer. “The Training Academy will complement our customers’ organic training capabilities and fill the growing need across our RPA enterprise to address the pilot shortage.”

SOURCE | More..

General Atomics to Improve 19 Gray Eagles


General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., Poway, California, was awarded a $47,499,986 modification (P00033) to undefinitized contract W58RGZ-13-C-0109 for an improved Gray Eagle engineering change proposal applicable to 19 aircraft, four lots of ground support equipment and one lot of unique initial spares. Work will be performed in Poway, California, with an estimated completion date of Sept. 30, 2018.  Fiscal 2015 other procurement funds in the amount of $23,274,993 were obligated at the time of the award. Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, is the contracting activity.

SOURCE | More..

Opportunity; Army Gray Eagle’s data link capabilities upgrade


The Army has released a Request for Information looking to expand the data link capabilities of its Predator unmanned aircraft variant – the MQ-1C Gray Eagle.

The RFI seeks to provide “an outline for the potential revamp of Army’s Gray Eagle UAS data link equipment.” This spring, tests of manned-unmanned teaming using Apache helicopters and Gray Eagles showed the limitations of the Gray Eagle’s Tactical Common Data Link (TCDL), Breaking Defense reported. The TCDL communicates only over the Ku-band radio frequency, while other Army drones use other frequencies. Army officials said at the time they were planning a solicitation for a data link that can operate on multiple bands.

“The Army is interested in acquiring an overall system architect, and/or vendors that can provide subcomponents to include modems, antennas, front-end components, etc. Interested companies who believe they are capable of providing all or part of the information requested are invited to respond,” the RFI stated.

The Pentagon recently announced that it wants to increase the numberof unmanned aircraft sorties, or combat air patrols – one consisting of usually four aircraft and enable the force to rotate aircraft into the sky for constant 24/7 monitoring of a particular area – by 50 percent by 2019.  Since the Air Force’s personnel – which conduct the majority of global CAPs – are currently strained and pushed to their maximum limit, the CAP increases will rely on other branches such as the Army and Special Operations Command components as well as contractors.

While the Air Force and covert elements including the CIA have mostly been associated with the sorties flown in high-conflict areas, other commands have also contributed. Notably, the Army has operated its MQ-1C Gray Eagle, in Iraq. Recently one of these aircrafts was reported to have crashed in the Iraqi desert due to “technical complications caused by a loss of communications.”

The Army will fly as many as 16 sorties a day by 2019 – as opposed to the 60 the Air Force will continue to fly – with the Army flying half that by 2017.

The response date for the Army’s RFI is Oct 16, 2015.


FAA: Military drone flew out of control over Upstate New York


WASHINGTON, D.C. – A small military drone flew out of control last month along the Susquehanna River west of Binghamton, prompting a series of alerts and warnings to pilots in Upstate New York.

Operators of the unmanned Desert Hawk IIIreported losing contact with the fixed-wing aircraft at 3:21 p.m. July 24, according to a newly disclosed incident report from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The FAA control tower at Binghamton reported that an operator of the remotely piloted aircraft called to say “they have lost control of a drone and to watch out.” Meanwhile, a pilot in the area reported spotting the rogue drone as it meandered through the region.

The FAA did not disclose the operator of the drone.

But a spokesman for Lockheed Martin Corp. confirmed Monday that the military drone was on a test flight from Lockheed’s facility in Owego, N.Y.

SOURCE | More..

Army Gray Eagle/Apache Team Supporting Minesweeping Operations in Arabian Gulf


NORTHERN ARABIAN GULF – Three Soldiers from the 185th Theater Aviation Brigade boarded the USS Higgins Aug. 19, 2015, for an interoperability training mission named Spartan Kopis. Their mission involved integrating efforts between the crew members aboard the USS Higgins, the pilots of the AH-64 Apache aircraft and the operators of the MQ-1C Gray Eagle Unmanned Aerial System (UAS).

The Gray Eagle UAS provided live feeds to personnel ashore in the Tactical Operations Center, the pilots of the AH-64 Apache, and the personnel in the combat room aboard the USS Higgins. Flying between 7,000 and 10,000 feet, the primary function for the Gray Eagle UAS is to search ahead for other threats of watercraft while minesweeping boats clear sections of the Northern Arabian Gulf.

“The Army and the Navy have been given a great opportunity to enhance the overall value of the Army Gray Eagle asset,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brandon Murphy, the flight operations officer with Company F, 1st Aviation Regiment. “The Gray Eagle demonstrated its versatility by providing reconnaissance, security and target acquisition for the USS Higgins during an overwater mission.”

Tasked with leaving an enduring footprint in Southwest Asia, the Gray Eagle UAS units are continuously working with U.S. Navy Central Command for planning and executing interoperability missions. “This training allows the Navy to see what the Army can bring to the table,” said Lt. Dan Sledz, the weapons officer for the USS Higgins.

“The fusion of different branches of service is essential to an effective fighting force,” said Spc. Kenneth Poore, a geospatial imagery intelligence analyst with the 185th TAB. “Whether in a mountain range of Afghanistan or the waters of the Northern Arabian Gulf, being able to visually see the battlefield through full motion video and what is beyond line of sight is critical to any operational element,” said Poore.

SOURCE | More..


Army Manned-Unmanned Teaming Lands in Iraq


CAMP TAJI, Iraq – The 4th Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment from Ft. Bliss, Texas, ended their successful tour in Southwest Asia with a Transfer of Authority Ceremony Aug. 16 at Camp Taji, Iraq.

The “Pistoleros” were attached to the 185th Theater Aviation Brigade and conducted missions throughout the Middle East and Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. During their nine-month deployment, the Pistoleros provided attack, lift, and medical evacuation support for Operation Inherent Resolve.

“Everyone had to pull their load, consistently working long hours with little time off,” said Lt. Col. Lance VanZant, commander of the 4th Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment.

As the Pistoleros return home the 3rd Squadron, 6th Air Cavalry Regiment begin their deployment in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

Task Force “Heavy Cav” is the first attack reconnaissance battalion to deploy with Shadow unmanned aerial systems. The 3rd Squadron, 6th Air Cavalry Regiment will provide both general and attack aviation support for Operation Inherent Resolve.

“You have a large banner and heavy mantle to assume,” said Col. Ronald Beckham, 185th Theater Aviation Brigade. “Your skill and ingenuity will be challenged; your reputation and honored history demonstrate that this mission will not stop you from getting the job done.”

“Heavy Cav” was the first attack reconnaissance squadron to receive the Shadow unmanned aerial system in March 2015. In order to support Operation Inherent Resolve, they will use both the AH-64 Apache Aircraft and the Shadow UAS. The Shadow provides real time video feeds to both the pilots in the Apache aircraft and to personnel in the Tactical Operations Center, which provides another channel of communication between the crews in the aircraft and to the personnel in the TOC.

SOURCE | More..

Opportunity: DOD will need contracted help to expand future Predator level drone sorties


The U.S. military wants to boost its drone presence by 50 percent in four years, and it’s hiring help — beginning with General Atomics, maker of the ubiquitous Predator and Reaper UAVs, which started flying missions in April.

Currently, Air Force crews fly 60 Predator and Reaper combat air patrols, where one CAP means keeping one aircraft in the air around the clock. The Pentagon wants to push that towards 90 by 2019, the Wall Street Journalreported Monday. With Air Force drone crews worn out by wartime operations, military leaders are turning to the Army, U.S. Special Operations Command — and the defense industry.

“Government contractors would be hired to fly older Predator drones on as many as 10 flights a day, none of them strike missions,” wrote WSJ reporter Gordon Lubold.

SOURCE | More..