General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., a leading manufacturer of Remotely Piloted Aircraft systems, radars, and electro-optic and related mission systems solutions, announced May 21 the successful second endurance flight of the U.S. Armyís Improved Gray EagleÆ prototype Unmanned Aircraft System, an advanced derivative of the mission-proven Gray Eagle UAS that has accumulated over 100,000 flight hours since 2008.
The flight of IGE lasted 36.7 hours, taking off Jan. 17 and landing Jan. 19 at the companyís El Mirage Flight Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif.
Improved Gray Eagle is a significant capability leap forward, providing for longer UAS endurance, enhanced payload carriage, and increased reliability, said Frank W. Pace, president, Aircraft Systems, GA-ASI. We are pleased that this long-endurance flight was executed seamlessly, with all objectives met.
During the flight, IGE demonstrated its ability to carry an external signals intelligence pod on one wing and two Hellfire missiles on the other. The flight test was funded by the Armyís Product Office for Medium Altitude Endurance UAS and was a significant milestone for the Improved Gray Eagle program, proving the validity of the aircraftís endurance claims in this specified payload configuration. IGEís first endurance flight occurred in October 2013, when the UAS flew over 45 hours in a Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition configuration, with no external payloads integrated.
Following this test, IGE will receive software updates that will allow its operation from the U.S. Armyís One System Ground Control Station and future Universal Ground Control System. The Army plans to flight test the upgrade this summer.
An updated version of the U.S. Armyís Gray Eagle, IGE was developed by GA-ASI on Internal Research and Development funds, with its maiden flight taking place last July. In addition to the prototype aircraft currently undergoing flight test evaluation, the company has committed to manufacturing an additional production first article aircraft.
IGE has a Max Gross Takeoff Weight (MGTOW) of 4200 pounds, utilizing the 205HP Lycoming DEL-120 engine. The aircraftís deep belly design and 500- pound centerline hard point allows for 850 pounds of internal fuel load, with an optional external fuel pod that can accommodate an additional 450 pounds. Use of this extra fuel would allow for RSTA missions in excess of 50 hours.