According to a contract published by the United States Department of Defense (DoD) on November 18, 2021, American company General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI), Poway, California, was awarded a $103,206,787 firm-fixed-price contract by the United States Department of Defense for the production of Gray Eagle unmanned aircraft systems, satellite airborne data terminals, and government-furnished equipment maintenance.
The American company GA-ASI (General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc.) designs and manufactures long-endurance unmanned aircraft and sensor systems used to perform intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance tactics and precision strike missions.
Gray Eagle Extended Range (GE-ER) is a next-generation advanced derivative of the battle-proven Gray Eagle Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS). GE-ER delivers long-endurance UAS surveillance, communications relay, and weapons delivery missions in support of the warfighter. The aircraft delivers an advanced UAS capability for the Army, adding significantly increased endurance, considerably improved reliability/maintainability, and much greater payload and weapons capacity. First flown in July 2013, GE-ER builds upon the successes of its Gray Eagle predecessor, delivering upgraded, game-changing capabilities for saving the lives of Army soldiers abroad by providing extended surveillance coverage, along with the ability to self-transit to distant locations.
GE-ER is engineered with a Max Gross Takeoff Weight (MGTOW) of 4,200 pounds, utilizing a high-performance 180HP diesel engine compared with the Gray Eagle’s GTOW of 3,600 pounds with a 160HP diesel engine. The incorporation of GE-ER’s deep belly design and 500-pound centerline hardpoint allows for 900 pounds of internal fuel load, with the capability of an external fuel pod that can accommodate an additional 450 pounds (Gray Eagle’s fuel load is 600 pounds). Use of this extra fuel supports persistent Army Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition (RSTA) missions. GE-ER endurance has been demonstrated in all Army operational configurations and flew nearly two days straight during testing at GA-ASI’s Flight Operations Facility in El Mirage, California.
GE-ER’s internal payload capacity, combined with its increased engine horsepower, provides growth capability for an improved airworthiness design, with the potential of incorporating lightning protection, damage tolerance, and Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) features.
GE-ER features an automatic takeoff and landing system (ATLS) that allows the aircraft to be launched and recovered without any operator interaction. Its ATLS is based upon GA-ASI’s Gray Eagle ATLS which has successfully conducted tens of thousands of takeoffs and landings.