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Army Guard Orders First Gray Eagles

06-04-24 WR Gray Eagles WEBSITE
06-04-24 WR Gray Eagles WEBSITE
Washington Report

The Army National Guard has ordered its first 12 MQ-1C Gray Eagle 25M unmanned aircraft systems from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., the company announced May 31.

Army leaders consider the Gray Eagle essential for future fights. The aircraft’s reconnaissance, surveillance and target-acquisition capabilities enable commanders to pinpoint long-range artillery.

These capabilities also enable aviators to see beyond the horizon. The Gray Eagle's Hellfire missiles additionally boost available firepower.

All 10 active-component divisions already have Gray Eagles, but none reside in any of the Guard's eight divisions, which hinders the service's ability to conduct large-scale combat operations.

That will soon change — at least for one Guard division.

Congress made the Army Guard's recent purchase possible by adding $350 million to 2023 defense appropriations for the 12 aircraft, which are enough to field one full Gray Eagle company.

The National Guard Bureau has yet to announce the Guard's first division to receive the aircraft. Fielding is expected to begin in fiscal 2026.

NGAUS and the adjutants general convinced lawmakers to find the money for the Guard's first Gray Eagles in fiscal 2023 appropriations.

Retired Col. Mike Hadley, the association's vice president for government affairs, said this purchase needs to be the first of eight.

"Guard divisions cannot fulfill their obligations in the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy if they are not equipped and fully interoperable with the active component," he said.

The Gray Eagle is 28-feet long and has a 58-foot wingspan, making it the Army's largest UAS.

The aircraft coming to the Guard are the latest variant of the Gray Eagle. It can fly for 40-plus hours with a range of 2,500 nautical miles via satellite communications, reaching an altitude of 25,000 feet and a speed of 157 knots, according to General Atomics.

They also feature the new EagleEye multimode radar and electrooptical/infrared sensors while supporting a wide range of kinetic and nonkinetic payloads.

The latest variant is also capable of multidomain operations, an upgrade from earlier variants; such a capability is critical to the Army's efforts to overmatch a near-peer adversary.

And an aircraft capable of loitering over the battlefield and providing high-resolution, real-time imagery can do the same over a flood or wildfire, General Atomics said.

The Gray Eagle can be operated by a soldier in the field on a tablet.

"This is a big win for the Army National Guard’s combat divisions, but it’s just the start," Hadley said.

"All eight Guard divisions need to mirror the active component doctrinally in equipment and capabilities," he added. "One Guard division will initially be getting Gray Eagles. All eight urgently need them."

Hadley said NGAUS is working with Congress this year to get more Gray Eagles for the Guard.

— By John Goheen