General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI) announced on December 8 the commencement of flight testing for its MQ-1C Gray Eagle Extended Range (ER) series unmanned aircraft system (UAS). The successful first flight on October 29 of the company’s ‘production representative’ UAS was made from its El Mirage Flight Operations Facility in Adelanto, California.
MQ-1C Gray Eagle ER, developed by GA-ASI specifically to increase endurance and payload capacity, is a next-generation derivative of the combat-proven Gray Eagle UAS, which has accumulated over 300,000 flight hours since 2008. The MQ-1C ER is expected to complete flight testing in June 2017. It will then begin a series of US Army test events culminating in the program’s second Follow-on Operational Test and Evaluation in late 2017. The first four aircraft are expected to be delivered in Q2 and Q3 2017, with an additional 15 over the course of 2018.
MQ-1C ER delivers an advanced medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) capability for the US Army, adding increased payload capacity, greater range and endurance, and improved maintainability. The aircraft is engineered with a maximum gross take-off weight (MGTOW) of 4,200 lb compared with Gray Eagle’s MGTOW of 3,600 lb.
The incorporation of MQ-1C ER’s straight belly design allows for more than 910 lb of internal fuel and a centerline hard point that can accommodate an optional fuel pod with an additional 450 lb. With endurance at more than 40 hours, the aircraft will exceed the Army’s requirement for 14 hours on station at 1,000km for all mission types.
MQ-1C ER features an upgraded Heavy Fuel Engine-180 (HFE-180) which provides increased horsepower and reliability. HFE-180 includes propulsion reliability enhancements, an improved cooling system and high-performance induction system. The new engine began flight tests on Block 1 Gray Eagle in February 2016.
December 13, 2016