Service sources have confirmed that the U.S. Army’s MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAS has participated in its first lethal combat engagements in Afghanistan.
The confirmation was provided as part of a program update delivered by Lt. Col. Kevin Messer, U.S. Army product manager for Gray Eagle, at this week’s 2011 Army Aviation Association of America (AAAA) Professional Forum and Exhibition in Nashville, Tenn.
To date the Army has fielded two Quick Reaction Capability (QRC) sets of Gray Eagle into theaters, with four aircraft in each set and two ground control stations. QRC 1 is fielded in Iraq and QRC 2 is fielded in Afghanistan. According to Messer, the QRC aircraft are currently flying a total of more than 21 hours per day.
“For QRC 1 the vignettes are pretty straightforward; pretty simple,” he explained. “We do a lot of route recons or recons in different areas where we are able to see and report to the ground commander on what’s happening ahead of him. Some of the reports we have gotten of different vignettes were that we were able to see guys on top of buildings who weren’t there before. We started noticing some activity with a bunch of men running some stuff into a small streambed. We were able to report that out to the commander on the ground and he was able to take action. And for this particular scenario it was good for us to be there and be able to provide that information.”
Messer noted that QRC 2, fielded in Afghanistan, differs from QRC 1 in that it includes a second SATCOM Ground Data Terminal.
“I provided two [SATCOM GDTs] right now simply because they have to do a lot of relief on station,” he said. “Where they are located is some mountainous terrain where I don’t have a lot of line of sight capability…So I can send a second aircraft up with a second SATCOM to do relief on station and then bring the other aircraft back. In the near future for my program of record my SATCOM dishes will be able to fly two aircraft with just one dish, instead on one apiece. That capability will be for first unit equipped [3rd quarter FY 11].”
Pointing to the ability of the QRC aircraft to deliver Hellfire missiles, Messer noted, “For QRC 2 we have already fired in anger and we have destroyed some of the enemy. So we had ‘a first.’ We had a Gray Eagle up there, we lased/self designated and we killed an enemy. Then we lased another target for an A-10 and it dropped something onto [the target] and also took out the enemy. So we are weapons capable.”