The Gray Eagle 25M unmanned aircraft has conducted its first flight during testing with American defence company General Atomics Aeronautical Systems.
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The GE-25M unmanned aircraft system (UAS), developed by the General Atomics subsidiary under a Gray Eagle modernisation program for the US Army, undertook the flight at El Mirage flight facility in California, on 5 December last year.
The unmanned aircraft is being developed as a multi-domain operations capable, GE-25M, for US Army active duty and US National Guard units expected to be in service in the 2050s, following the award of an undefinitised not-to-exceed $389 million contract on 1 December last year.
“In a multi-domain operations environment, soldiers need the aircraft to operate with increased reliability along with reduced manning and equipment, which is why GE-25M significantly reduces the maintenance required on the aircraft,” according to GA-ASI president David R Alexander.
The first flight of Gray Eagle 25M focused on flight-critical operations, including testing the improved flight computer boasting five times more processing capacity and 80 times more data storage (with 10 times more RAM) for increased computing power that enables processing at the edge, as well as meeting the demand for increased automation and autonomy, according to the company.
GA-ASI said the flight tested the aircraft’s new HFE 2.0 engine and power generation systems, designed in cooperation with Project Manager Endurance Uncrewed Aircraft Systems. The new engine, gearbox, and generator design decreases major maintenance actions and virtually eliminates the need for overhaul.
GE-25M’s more powerful generators, combined with advanced avionics, enable the aircraft to function as a multi-domain operations “truck” with the ability to utilise a variety of advanced multi-intelligence sensors, launched effects, and electronic warfare pods.
In May last year, the US Congress approved funding for 12 Gray Eagle 25M unmanned aircraft systems developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems for the United States Army National Guard.
The Army National Guard hopes that the acquisition will enable the force to be multi-domain operations-capable, while also integrating with the Division Artillery Brigades, and better support domestic tasks including both defence and humanitarian relief.
According to the company, the UAS can host both kinetic and non-kinetic payloads and is equipped with electro-optical/infrared sensors – supporting mission planning, communications, and coordination.
The UAS provides the Army National Guard divisions with their first ISR capability, enabling fires, manoeuvre, network, and intelligence operations.
“The GE-25M UAS is a very versatile aircraft,” Patrick Shortsleeve, GA-ASI vice-president of DOD Strategic Development, explained.
“Gray Eagle is a valuable tool that gives the ARNG capabilities that match the organisational and doctrinal reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (RSTA) requirements of active Army divisions with up to 40 hours of continuous flight.”
To date, the UAS has operated for millions of hours, even working alongside manned rotary-wing capabilities.