General Atomics sidelined its project to develop an improved Gray Eagle at the Army's request last summer to focus on supporting operational testing. Now, however, the company is hard at work to nearly double the endurance to 45 from 24 hr. The upgrade will include a centerline fuel tank, the company official says. First flight is now expected in the summer.
General Atomics produces 3.5 MQ-9 Reapers per month for the Air Force; production of the Gray Eagle is about half as robust, the company official says. The program is still technically in low-rate, initial production, but the Army has 103 of 152 vehicles on contract through three separate buys, Davila says. Production is scheduled to continue through fiscal 2015 and the Army is slated to field two units each year.
“Fifteen years ago, we had a surf-shop mentality” about production, the company official adds. Now, however, the operation has become more regular and repeatable. General Atomics is maintaining a reputation for savvy in determining what parts need to be produced in house, versus those that can be outsourced, after encountering challenges with the latter.