- General Atomics’ Gray Eagle-Extended Range flies for 42 consecutive hours
- This is an improvement of nearly 68% on its Gray Eagle predecessor
General Atomics on 6 August performed a 42-hour endurance flight with its Gray Eagle Extended Range (GE-ER) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) variant, a 68% increase over the stamina of its Gray Eagle predecessor.
A General Atomics official on 15 August attributed the extra-long flight to longer wings, fuel bladders embedded in those wings, and a more efficient engine. GE-ER is a next-generation advanced derivative of the original Gray Eagle, featuring long endurance surveillance, communications relay, and weapons delivery missions, according to a company statement.
General Atomics President of Aircraft Systems David Alexander told reporters on 16 August at the company’s headquarters in Poway, California, that GE-ER has already been sold and entered full rate production (FRP) as an existing design. Around mid-2018, Alexander said, General Atomics will perform something similar to a formal operational test. Alexander said the company will field GE-ER after performing this test.
Alexander said General Atomics is under contract with the US Army for 160 units of the legacy Gray Eagle and roughly 60 of the extended range variant. He said the company is in talks with the Army for something similar to a service life extension programme (SLEP) that would bring the aircraft back to the manufacturer and have the new airframe installed.
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