Magazine article National Defense

Army Special Forces Gear Up for Gray Eagle

Magazine article National Defense

Army Special Forces Gear Up for Gray Eagle

Article excerpt

* As the Army ramps up production of the Gray Eagle unmanned aircraft, officials at U.S. Army Special Operations Command are developing tactics and plans for operating two companies worth of vehicles slated to come online beginning in 2013.

"We've already recognized we will need more personnel to conduct a SOF-specific task," said Lt. Col. Mark Gladney, UAS branch chief for the command.

The medium-altitude, long-endurance MQ-1C Gray Eagle is part of the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper family of remotely piloted aircraft manufactured by General Atomics. It is armed with Hellfire missiles and can carry laser designators, radar and other sensors.


Each Army division will receive a company of Gray Eagles that will be manned by 128 soldiers. The two companies assigned to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment at Fort Campbell, Ky., will each have 165 personnel.

"The reason is the conventional forces intend to employ Gray Eagle companies as companies. We'll deploy ours as platoons," explained Gladney. The extra personnel will enable "persistent stare" missions as opposed to the conventional forces' reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition duties.

A pre-production Gray Eagle system comprising four aircraft is already operating in Afghanistan in support of the combined joint special operations task force-A.

"They're providing excellent support to that command," said Gladney. "All of the mission tasks we originally assigned them to do, they are finally up and getting those tasks completed. …

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