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

The General Atomics MQ-1C Gray Eagle is a medium-altitude, long-endurance drone developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GAAS) for the US Army as an upgrade of its MQ-1 drone. The Gray Eagle has a top speed of 173 miles per hour (278 kmh) and a cruising speed of 155 mph (250 kmh) with a range of 249 miles (400 kilometers). The Gray Eagle can also carry multiple payloads, including radars, signals intelligence, Hellfire missiles and a camera with high definition resolution.

The Gray Eagle was developed as the US Army’s own UAV, independent of the Air Force’s commonly-used and more well-known Predator drone. Despite DOD direction, although the Air Force and the Army used the same contractor to procure the Predator and Gray Eagle UAS, the programs achieved only limited success with efforts to combine programs and missed an opportunity to potentially save hundreds of millions of dollars. The Air Force now plans to procure Reaper UAS rather than the Predator.

The MQ-1C Gray Eagle Extended Range Multipurpose (ERMP) Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), previously known as the ERMP Warrior, Sky Warrior, and MQ-1C Warrior addresses the need for a long-endurance, armed, unmanned aircraft system that offers greater range, altitude, and payload flexibility.

The system provides combatant commanders with a real-time responsive capability to conduct long-dwell, persistent stare, wide-area reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition, communications relay, and attack missions. The MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAS is powered by a heavy fuel engine (HFE) for higher performance, better fuel efficiency, common fuel on the battlefield, and a longer lifetime.

The MQ-1C Gray Eagle Unmanned Aircraft System (MQ-1C Gray Eagle) provides the Division Commander a dedicated, assured, multi-mission Unmanned Aircraft System for the tactical fight assigned to the Combat Aviation Brigade in each Division and supports the Division Fires, Battlefield Surveillance Brigades, and Brigade Combat Teams based upon the Division Commander’s priorities. The MQ-1C Gray Eagle will also be assigned to Army Special Operations Forces and the Aerial Exploitation Battalions. MQ-1C Gray Eagle provides reconnaissance, surveillance, and target Acquisition; command and control; communications relay; signals intelligence; electronic warfare; attack; detection of weapons of mass destruction; battle damage assessment; and manned- unmanned teaming capabilities.

The unit of measure for a MQ-1C Gray Eagle is balanced platoons, each with four aircraft and associated support equipment and payloads to include: Electro-Optical/Infrared/Laser Range Finder/Laser Designator, communications relay, and up to four Hellfire Missiles. The Common Sensor Payload and STARlite Synthetic Aperture Radar Ground Moving Target Indicator are one per aircraft. Ground equipment per Platoon includes: two Universal Ground Control Stations, three Universal Ground Data Terminals, one Satellite Communication Ground Data Terminal, one Mobile Ground Control Station per Company, an Automated Take Off and Landing System which includes two Tactical Automatic Landing Systems and ground support equipment to include Ground-Based Sense and Avoid.

On February 5, 2013, the Chief of Staff of the Army approved an Executive Order (EXORD) changing the MQ-1C Gray Eagle fielding configuration to provide greater capability across the Army. The EXORD directs fielding of MQ-1C Gray Eagle companies to ten Army Divisions, one to the National Training Center (NTC), two Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF) units, and two to the Aerial Exploitation Battalions (AEB) for a total of 15 companies.

The two ARSOF companies would be configured with 12 aircraft each (24 total) and the 13 units assigned to Army Divisions, NTC and the AEB's will be fielded with nine aircraft each (117 total) while Continental United States (CONUS) based. Seven aircraft are assigned to the institutional training base at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. The four remaining aircraft are for attrition. When a company or AEB assigned to a division deploys Outside the Continental United States (OCONUS), the Army would reassign equipment, as required, to bring the company to full Gray Eagle System equipment strength (12 aircraft and associated ground support equipment). All EXORD requirements would be met without exceeding the procurement objective of 152 aircraft and ground support equipment and Program of Record funding.

Each company would be integrated with the following payloads: Electro-Optical/Infrared, Laser Range Finder/Laser Designator, Synthetic Aperture Radar/Ground Moving Target Indicator, communications relay, and four HELLFIRE missiles. Ground support equipment for a 12 aircraft company includes six UGCS, seven UGDT, three Satellite Communication Ground Data Terminals, one Mobile Ground Control Station, and the Automated Take Off and Landing System consisting of six Tactical Automatic Landing System-Tracking Subsystem and ground support equipment.

The MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAS is fielded in company sets, consisting of 12 unmanned aircraft, 6 One System Ground Control Stations (OGCS), 6 Ground Data Terminals (GDT), 3 Portable Ground Control Stations (PGCS), 3 Portable Ground Data Terminals (PGDT), 3 Satellite Ground Data Terminals (SGDT), an Automated Take-off and Landing System (ATLS), Light Medium Tactical Vehicles (LMTV), and other ground-support equipment, operated and maintained by a company of 128 soldiers, assigned to a Combat Aviation Brigade.

The MQ-1C Grey Eagle was the result of a development that began in 2005 with the award of a contract for an Extended-Range Multi-Purpose (ERMP) unmanned aerial vehicle, then referred to as "Warrior." General Atomics won the contract with a derivative of its successful RQ/MQ-1 Predator vehicle, beating Northrop Grumman's Hunter II, derived from their RQ-5B Hunter. The vehicle was also known as ERMP Warrior during the initial development. The resulting evaluation vehicles were known as Warrior A/Warrior Alpha and Sky Warrior/Warrior Block 0. These initial vehicles were capable of 24 hour a day sustained operations, and were intended to be modular to provide various functions to combatant commanders.

The Army’s three UAS programs — Hunter, Shadow, and Gray Eagle — were all initially developed as proprietary systems and did not include an open systems approach for all three key components—the air vehicle, ground control station, and payloads. Moreover, the Army’s UAS ground control stations limited interoperability and resulted in the Army paying for ground control stations that provided similar capabilities. The Army eventually developed a common ground control station for the three UAS; however, the new station was still proprietary. By 2013 all three of the Army’s UAS programs were upgrading to a universal ground control station that incorporates an open architecture to address obsolescence issues and increase interoperability.

The Army’s Gray Eagle and Shadow programs also incorporate open system elements for the systems’ payloads to save integration time and cost. Gray Eagle program officials stated that the program owns the data rights to all payload interface specifications, which allows third-party vendors to develop a payload using these specifications. However, officials noted that the program has to rely on the prime contractor to integrate new payloads because the Army does not have the expertise to do so.

The US Army initially requested the assignment of YMQ-12A as the designation for the Warrior Alpha vehicles, but in 2006 they were designated YMQ-1C. By 2011, the low-rate initial production vehicles had become designated the MQ-1C and the name Grey Eagle had been assigned. The term "Medium Altitude Endurance" (MAE) was also associated with the MQ-1C.

By March 2017 the United States had started the process of sending a fleet of Gray Eagle attack drones to its military base in Gunsan, Jeollabuk-do province, following an agreement with the South Korean military. The drones have previously been deployed to various conflict zones in Afghanistan and Iraq to conduct reconnaissance or precision-strike missions on enemy command posts and it is widely believed that they will be used for similar purposes in drills against North Korea.

The drones are 8 meters long, with a 17-meter wingspan, and can fly for more than 30 hours. at speeds of 280 kilometers per hour. The drones can also be equipped with Hellfire air-to-surface missiles or other GPS-aided anti-tank munitions. While the drones were originally slated to be deployed to South Korea only in crisis situations, it now appears that the U.S. has decided to have them at the ready, amid North Korea's escalating threats.

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