21.4.2020

General Atomics plans air launched effect test from MQ-1C Gray Eagle this summer

General Atomics plans air launched effect test from MQ-1C Gray Eagle this summer – link

Source: Flight Global

Article Headlines

  • General Atomics Aeronautical Systems is planning an air launched effect (ALE) test from its MQ-1C Gray Eagle Extended Range (ER) this summer
  • The company aims to launch a drone called the Area-I Air-Launched Tube-Integrated Unmanned System (ALTIUS) from the Gray Eagle ER
  • “For our demonstration this summer, we will show that ALEs can operate 32.4-43.2nm [60-80km] from the Gray Eagle ER,” says Chris Pehrson, vice-president of strategic development for Department of Defense customers with General Atomics. “This range is limited due to airspace and data link constraints. However, as data links mature and are optimized, we expect ALEs will deploy and operate up to 162nm from the Gray Eagle ER.”
  • The flight demonstration is to be the third of a series in which General Atomics wants to show that the US Army’s MQ-1C can be modified and used in battles against so-called Great Power nations, sophisticated adversaries with advanced radar and surface-to-air missile air defenses
  • The US Department of Defense is increasingly worried that its aircraft are vulnerable to being shot down. Several of the US Air Force’s General Atomics MQ-9 Reapers – the MQ-1C’s larger cousin – have been lost to such action over the Middle East in recent years
  • To keep the MQ-1C beyond the reach of an adversary’s missiles, the company is experimenting with using long-range sensors on the platform
  • Eventually, General Atomics plans to control the UAV, or any other ALE, from its Scalable Command & Control software program, which can fly the MQ-1C in place of a full ground control station. The software runs on a standard US Army ruggedized laptop and uses a commercial video game controller
  • The ALTIUS is recoverable and reuseable. It is thought of as “attritable”, meaning it is cheap enough to be lost or destroyed without serious financial pain to the service
  • General Atomics is looking at air recovery of ALEs from the MQ-9B and is considering it for the MQ-1C as well

Overview & Comments

  • Current operational, mainstream, MALE / HALE UASs are great at their contribution in asymmetric theatres
  • However, recent events, as well as rising operational requirements dictate that their contribution to potential areas of operations will not be as effective – i.e. the downing of the MQ-4C by Iran
  • A conflict with a state player is more than possible these days than in previous years. State actors such as Iran, North Korea or even Russia & China with relevance to various geographical areas of interest
  • State actors with advanced air defense layers that common UAS will not be able to operate in without almost full air superiority
  • Aside from straight-forward air defense systems, UAVs obtain additional “soft-spots” that will be targeted by potential foes. For example, the datalink, satellites & fixed GCSs
  • Until advanced UCAVs / “Loyal Wingman” systems will be fully operational there is still more that can be accomplished with today’s systems in order to better cope with rising threats such as greater engagement ranges using the armament above
  • At ABG-SC we constantly monitor and study new technologies coupled with rising operational requirements. Contact to learn more
  • See “Abrupt End to MQ-9 Production Surprises General Atomics”
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