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General Atomics Upgrades Gray Eagle-Extended Range Armed Drone

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems has begun Gray Eagle-Extended Range (GE-ER) unmanned aircraft system factory upgrades, including manned-unmanned teaming capability.

The upgrade program includes two GE-ER drones for the US Army’s Multi-Domain Operations. “Flight test and qualification” will take place later this year.

The upgrade follows a series of flight demonstrations showcasing the GE-ER’s “long-range sensors, Air Launched Effects (ALE) and Scalable Command and Control.”

Air-Launched Drones

The ALEs are small, armed drones capable of being launched from manned and unmanned platforms, extending their reach, speed, and lethality.

According to the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command, the air-launched drones are crucial to penetrating enemy anti-access/area-denial structures from a stand-off range.

In one of the demonstrations, the GE-ER identified emitters at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters) using an L3Harris Rio Nino lightweight Communications Intelligence payload and integrated antenna array.

It “provided single aircraft geo-location and cross-cueing to the onboard Synthetic Aperture Radar to produce precision coordinates sufficient for targeting within minutes.”

Greater Power, Endurance

The GE-ER is powered by a 180HP diesel engine enabling a maximum takeoff weight of 4,200 pounds (1,905 kilograms) compared to the Gray Eagle’s 160 HP and 3,600 pounds (1,633 kilograms).

The craft’s “deep belly design and 500-pound (227 kilograms) centerline hard point allows for 900 pounds (408 kilograms) of internal fuel load,” in addition to “an external fuel pod that can accommodate an additional 450 pounds (204 kilograms),” compared to the Gray Eagle’s 600 pounds (272 kilograms).

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