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MQ-1C Grey Eagle
YMQ-1C Warrior A/Warrior Alpha
Sky Warrior Block 0 UAS
ERMP Warrior UAS

Program History

In August 2005, the Army awarded a $214-million contract for development of an Extended-Range Multi-Purpose unmanned aerial vehicle named the "Warrior." The ERMP Warrior would have the longest range of any UAV system then in the Army, and its diesel-powered air vehicle would eliminate the need for a special fuel on the battlefield. The air vehicle would have multiple on-board weapons and be capable of loitering over enemy territories for 36 hours at altitudes up to 25,000 feet.

The Synthetic Aperture Radar/Moving Target Indicator (SAR/MTI) was an Army acquisition category III program. SAR/MTI, when installed on the Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (TUAV), was to provide imaging of stationary targets and detection of moving targets, resulting in the tactical commander having increased situational awareness during periods of adverse weather and through battlefield obscurants. The Army estimated that total life-cycle costs would exceed $100 million for acquiring, operating, and maintaining 86 SAR/MTI systems.

Because the Army decided not to install the SAR/MTI on the TUAV, but on the Warrior Extended Range/Multi-Purpose air vehicle and other as yet undefined air vehicles, the Program Executive Officer for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors halted contractual actions until the Army clarified SAR/MTI requirements in operational requirements documents being prepared for the new platforms.

The Advanced EO/IR is an 11" diameter, 50 lb payload intended as an upgrade to the current TUAV payload. The Advanced EO/IR includes a mid-wave 640x480 InSb infrared camera, and a Sony color visible camera. Both cameras provide digital imagery. The IR camera will provide nearly a 2x improvement in range performance over the current TUAV payload IR camera. The Sony color EO camera will provide increased range performance over the baseline TUAV payload EO camera through improved line-of-sight stability.

Two Advanced EO/IR payloads were originally developed and flight-tested as part of the Multi-Mission Common Modular UAV Advanced Technology Demonstration (MMCM UAV ATD). The first Advanced EO/IR unit includes the EO and IR cameras, and the second unit added a Laser Rangefinder for improved target location accuracy. A third system was procured with a multi-spectral filter wheel for Countermine operations. Additional systems were being developed with a Laser Rangefinder/Designator for Counter-terrorism operations.

The Advanced EO/IR/LD (Electro-Optic/Infrared/Laser Designator) payload was a lightweight, low-cost Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition (RSTA) system designed to enhance the capabilities of the U.S. Army's Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (TUAV). It provides improved stand-off distances and increased search rates for the TUAV, as well as addresses the need for increased target detection capability and improved target location accuracy.

The payload was capable of being operated in a Step-Stare mode for rapid, wide area search. A multi-spectral filter wheel added in front of the IR camera supports Countermine operations, and a Laser Rangefinder/Designator allows for true targeting missions. In addition to TUAV, the proven performance of the Advanced EO/IR/LD met the requirements of the higher echelon Extended Range Multi-Purpose (ERMP) UAV (now UAS), and supported the projected needs of the Future Combat System (FCS).

Northrop Grumman entered the competition for the ERMP UAV program as a leading producer of unmanned systems for the United States military with a portfolio that spanned a broad spectrum of capabilities. The multi-role Hunter II was proposed for the Army's next-generation, extended-range, multi-purpose UAV program.

However, the Warrior contract went to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., of San Diego, California, for system development and demonstration. The contract was facilitated by the reinvestment of Comanche helicopter dollars. The new UAV was intended to directly support the Army's Aviation Modernization Plan. The selected ERMP UAV leveraged technologies from its predecessor, Predator.

The Army intended to procure 11 Warrior systems, each with 12 aerial vehicles, five ground control stations and other support equipment such as ground data terminals, spares, and Interactive Electronic Technical Manuals that are required to test and field a complete system.

The new UAV would be capable of executing missions such as reconnaissance, communications relay, and attack with various weapons. Warrior's network connectivity would reduce the sensor-to-shooter time to better suppress enemy threats. Warrior would also include an automatic takeoff and landing system and control via satellite communication and the Tactical Common Data Link.

The Extended Range, Multi-Purpose TUAV was intended to meet the UAV requirements for the Division and Corps Commander's in the OF. It was at this level where the Commander gets dedicated UAVs for the support of CRP functions. As of 2002 the draft TUAV ORD contained a threshold requirement for CRP. This threshold requirement allowed for a CRP capability 24/7. The CRP payload was tentatively planned to be integrated into three of the system air vehicles in order to ensure 24/7 coverage for WIN-T and JTRS support. This CRP would not only provide direct support for the Division/Corps area of operations (AO), but would also augment the Brigade Commander's limited Airborne communications architecture in his UA AO.

The Warrior was intended to eventually replace the Hunter UAV. The Army stopped buying Hunter systems in 1996. As of 2002 there were seven systems in the field, each with eight aircraft and system components for mission and flight, payloads, launch and recovery and transport vehicles for hardware and personnel. Hunter would continue in its support roles as well as serve as a test bed for the up and coming extended range/multi-purpose UAV. As of 2002 it was undecided whether the UAV would be fixed wing or rotary wing. The ER/MP is expected to replace Hunter in 2007.

The Warrior's system development and demonstration phase is expected to last about 48 months. Initial Operational Capability was expected in FY09. Total program cost is expected to be about $1 billion.

As of March 2007, two of Warrior's four critical technologies were mature. Although the remaining two technologies were immature in early 2006, the Army reported that they were nearing maturity as of the design review in late 2006. The Army anticipated that they would be mature by the time of the Warrior production start, currently scheduled for August 2008. While there were backup technologies available for both if they did not mature as the Army expects, these backups would result in a less capable Warrior system than the Army originally planned. The program office indicated that about 92 percent of the Warrior design drawings, a measure of design stability, were released to manufacturing as of the design review.

The heavy fuel engine and the automatic takeoff and landing system were considered to be mature. According to the program office, representative configurations of these two technologies had been integrated onto an unmanned aircraft. However, there was still some risk because neither the engine nor the complete takeoff and landing system had been integrated onto an unmanned aircraft using exactly the same configuration as planned for Warrior. Further, the Army reported that the engine required some additional modification in order to perform at the flight altitudes planned for Warrior.

The two remaining critical technologies, the airborne ethernet and the multi-role tactical common data link, were not mature at the time the Army awarded the Warrior system development and demonstration contract in August 2005 and remained immature in early 2006. As of the design review in late 2006, the Army reported that they were nearing maturity and expected they would be fully mature by the time of the production start planned for August 2008. The airborne ethernet was expected to provide real-time communications capabilities among Warrior's internal aircraft components, including the avionics, payloads, and weapons. Similarly, the multirole tactical common data link was being developed to provide communications between Warrior aircraft and ground control stations, as well as interoperability with other Army aviation platforms. While the contractor had integrated an airborne ethernet into an unmanned aircraft, neither it nor the data link had been integrated onto an umanned aircraft exactly as they were to be used on Warrior.

The Army had technologies in place as backups for the ethernet and data link, but these technologies would result in a less capable system than the Army originally planned. In particular, the backups for the data link suffer from slower data transmission rates or were not yet mature.

In its March 2007 report, the Government Accountability Office said it could not assess Warrior's production maturity because the Warrior contractor did not use statistical process control as its metric. Instead, the contractor employed global technology standards per the International Standards Organization as its method for monitoring, controlling, and improving processes. The Warrior program office stated that this approach was acceptable to the Army because Warrior production was relatively low-volume and the contractor generally employed nearly 100 percent testing of all critical items. Since May 2006, Warrior's low-rate and full-rate production decision dates both slipped by about 3 months due to the Army's decision to field the Block 0 version of Warrior.

As of March 2007, the Army expected to buy 1 developmental system with 17 aircraft and 11 complete production systems with a total of 132 production aircraft through 2015. However, the Army had not yet decided on the number of systems it might buy beyond that date.

By March 2008 the maturity of Sky Warrior's four critical technologies remained the same. The program office anticipated all technologies would be mature by the time of production start, then scheduled for August 2008. There were backup technologies in place should the technologies not mature as planned, but their use would result in a less capable system. Program officials stated that 96 percent of drawings had been released to manufacturing, a measure of design stability. However, the total number of drawings increased by over 37 percent from the program office's original projection at a design review in October 2006. Program officials indicated that the increase largely resulted from requirements changes and redesign. DoD directed the Sky Warrior and Predator programs be combined into a single program.

In September 2007, DoD issued a memorandum directing that the Predator and Sky Warrior programs be combined into a single acquisition program in order to achieve common development, procurement, sustainment, and training activities. The memo indicated that the two programs would migrate to a single contract by October 2008. According to Sky Warrior program officials, the impact of this direction on the program was not known because all aspects of the merger were still being determined.

Program officials stated that they have released 96 percent of drawings to manufacturing. However, the Sky Warrior's design had proven more difficult to mature than anticipated. The program office anticipated in 2008, a total of 4,428 drawings, over 37 percent more than the total expected at the time of the design review in October 2006. According to program officials, several factors contributed to the increased number of drawings. These included reliability and redundancy improvements to the aircraft, requirement changes due to the Sky Warrior's migration from a military intelligence asset to an aviation asset, and redesign of the system's ground control station.

The Sky Warrior program office stated that the majority of the increase in drawing numbers resulted from requirements changes as well as technology improvements for enhancing system performance. The office indicated that it believed Sky Warrior was designed in a reasonable amount of time once final requirements were decided, and that it did not feel the system design was more difficult to mature than anticipated, as stated by the GAO. Additionally, the office noted that although the Sky Warrior contractor did not use statistical process control to assess production maturity, the office itself employed measurements for that purpose. Those measurements included design stability, infrastructure tooling, test equipment, facilities, materials and personnel training, and process capability.

Fiscal year 2013 sequestration reductions in procurement funds resulted in deferrals and delays for procuring a number of upgrades to the system, including radio upgrades, new shipping containers, and an engine lifetime extension. These deferrals could, in turn, delay the eventual fielding of the upgraded aircraft to the warfighter, since they increase the risk that the system may not receive necessary certifications that it is safe and suitable for use.

The FY 2014 RDT&E appropriation funds MQ-1C Gray Eagle at the FY 2014 PB request of $10.9M. However, a Congressional reduction of $81.3M from the Aircraft Procurement, Army budget request of $518.5M resulted in a deferral of the planned production and incorporation of Ka-band (military) satellite communications. Additionally, the FY 2014 appropriation did not include funding for the four war replacement aircraft in the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) request. The change in fielding strategy within the existing 152 programmed aircraft reduced the number of attrition aircraft from 21 to four, making the impact of the OCO reduction more significant.

MQ-1C Gray Eagle Initial Operational Test and Evaluation completed in August 2012. Developmental testing in 4th Quarter FY 2013 and 1st Quarter FY 2014 focused on incorporating the Universal Ground Control Station (UGCS) and Universal Ground Data Terminal (UGDT). Testing consisted of transportability and mobility, electromagnetic environmental effects, and software development. Environmental and Developmental Tests were planned for the 2nd and 3rd Quarter FY 2014. Formal Software Qualification Testing was performed in 4th Quarter FY 2014 to prove out software functionality. These tests would assure technical maturity for a Follow-on Test and Evaluation (FOT&E) planned for June 2015.

In June 2015 General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GAAS) of California won a $121 million contract to build 19 Gray Eagle unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and 19 satellite terminals, the US Department of Defense announced in a statement. Work will be performed in Poway, California, with an estimated completion date of September 30, 2018.

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Page last modified: 01-07-2021 17:55:25 ZULU