As production of Predator A winding, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA ASI) shifts to the production of the new Sky Warrior MQ-1C model designed for the U.S. Army Extended Range/Multi-Purpose (ER/MP) UAS program. The company has received $195.5 million in funding from the U.S. Army, part of an estimated $399 million contract to provide Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) aircraft and supplemental hardware for ER/MP.
The remaining amount expected in the late summer of 2010 will provide for 34 Sky Warrior aircraft, 16 One System Ground Control Stations (OSGCS) made by AAI Corporation, airborne and ground Tactical Control Data Link (TCDL) equipment produced by L-3 Communications West, and various other items to include automatic landing systems, spares, and ground support equipment.
The Sky Warrior program completed Milestone C review in February 2010, confirming production readiness and program acquisition maturity. It also assessed the progress of the Hellfire AGM-114 P+ missiles for the entire future MQ-1C fleet and near-term QRC-2 aircraft expected to be fielded in the summer of 2010. Beginning December 2010, the company is scheduled to deliver over two aircraft a month through the end of 2012. New features being introduced with the Sky Warrior system include the capability to carry four AGM-114 P+ Hellfire missiles, fully autonomous operation, including automatic takeoff and landing and the de-icing capabilities enabling the aircraft to fly through degraded weather conditions.
In the past two years these early capability aircraft have logged over 145,000 flight hours, about 15% of the total flight hours logged by the entire U.S. Army unmanned aircraft fleet. “Unmanned aircraft such as the ER/MP has fundamentally changed the accuracy and lethality of our Soldiers’ weaponry, increased the safety of our Soldiers” said Col. Gregory Gonzalez, project manager for the Army’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems, “these systems have changed the way Soldiers see and understand the terrain and situations they face during conflict.” He added.
Since 2004 General Atomics delivered over 50 unmanned aircraft to the Army, in support of the Global War on Terrorism. The program builds on the experience gathered with two ‘early capability’ Sky Warrior programs, currently undergoing with the U.S. Army – the Sky Warrior Block 0 delivered in April 2008 and the Block 1 that deployed 16 months later, in August 2009 – both deployed under Quick Reaction Capability (QRC) procedures. These UAS are currently being enhanced with software, hardware, specially modified hellfire missiles and operational procedure upgrades under the QRC-2 phase.