Army readies missile-equipped drones for Afghanistan

Four weaponized versions of Grey Eagle will arrive in-theater this fall

The Army plans to deploy four versions of the Grey Eagle unmanned aircraft system outfitted with weapons to Afghanistan this fall in the wake of successful tests of the vehicle using Hellfire missiles, reports J.D. Leipold at Army News Service.

In tests this summer at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., soldiers successfully scored eight hits with Hellfire missiles from eight attempts when employing Grey Eagle and Apache helicopters as launch platforms, Col. Greg Gonzalez, program manager for Army UAS, said in a Pentagon bloggers roundtable in late August.

Of the eight test fires, six were aimed and fired directly from the Grey Eagle using an on-board laser designator. The other two test fires were launched from AH-64 Apache helicopters.

“Prior to that we had also tested the Hellfire integration at China Lake back in the fall of 2009,” Gonzalez said. “At that time, we had nine out of 10 hits and the tenth one that we did miss was an extremely difficult shot of a target moving directly” on a parallel course that required a perpendicular shot.

The General Atomics-built MQ-1C Grey Eagle (also known as Sky Warrior) is an updated version of the MQ-1 Predator.

The primary roles for Army UAS moving forward will be surveillance, security, command and control, and communications relay, Col. Robert Sova, capability manager for Army UAS, said in the roundtable discussion.

He said he doesn’t see an expansion of attack roles for the present other than Grey Eagle, but didn’t rule out that Army might use smaller, lighter unmanned weapon systems in the future along with possibly using unmanned systems in a cargo transport role.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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