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UAS operators take tour of manufacturing facility

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc : 07 December, 2009  (Company News)
GA-ASI has welcomed representatives of the US army who will operated the latest unmanned aircraft systems to their production facility in California
The US army has said that soldiers who will operate the newest most technologically advanced unmanned aircraft system (UAS) when it deploys in 2010 have received a sneak preview of the vehicles they will fly in combat. The UAS operators toured the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) production facility in California where the new Extended-Range/Multi-Purpose (ER/MP) UAS is being manufactured, and also had the opportunity to meet the men and women building their vehicles and thank them for their support to soldiers.

“All combat tools have human faces behind them – from the designers to the builders to the users – and it is important for our soldiers to thank the great people who provide the tools they need to fight the unfortunate conflicts we face,” said Col. Gregory Gonzalez, Project Manager, Unmanned Aircraft Systems, US Army. Gonzalez’ office is responsible for the acquisition and fielding of all Army unmanned aircraft systems.

This class of UAS operators has extensive experience operating UAS in theatre, including Warrior-class systems also built by General Atomics, and the Shadow and Hunter tactical UAS. They are deploying two years ahead of schedule to quickly bring this newest technology to areas of conflict. The rapid deployment is in response to the April 2008 challenge by Defence Secretary Robert Gates to field tools to Soldiers faster. The Army developed the Quick Reaction Capability (QRC) initiative to speed the ER/MP delivery from 2011 to 2009, deploying the QRC-1 unarmed system -- also known as Sky Warrior Block 0 -- in July 2009 in support of Overseas Contingency Operations in Iraq. This new class of operators will deploy with QRC-2, armed with four Helicopter Launcher Laser Guided Fire and Forget (Hellfire) missiles, in late FY 10. The missile, originally designed for use on Apache helicopters, is modified with a new inertial navigation system and the autopilot modified to accept target location information, allowing for improved high altitude engagements.

“The Army developed the ER/MP UAS program to meet the growing demand from combatant commanders who need real-time information and the capability to conduct long-dwell, wide-area reconnaissance and surveillance, as well as precision strike missions,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Messer, ER/MP product manager. “Time and time again, unmanned systems save soldiers’ lives by providing the right information at the right time.”

The latest technologies available in the ER/MP unmanned aircraft system include a heavy fuel engine, triple redundant avionics, and redundant flight controls/surfaces, and network connectivity that reduces information cycle time and enhances overall battlespace awareness. It is capable of flying for more than 30 hours, can operate with or without satellite communications data links and, in addition to four Hellfire missiles, it will carry a Lynx Block 30 Synthetic Aperture Radar/Ground Moving Target Indicator (SAR/GMTI) for immediate situational awareness and target detection. The SAR/GMTI is manufactured by GA-ASI.

“It is a great opportunity for us to introduce the US Army soldiers who will operate the Quick Reaction Capability-2 [QRC-2] armed Sky Warrior aircraft in combat operations to those who design and manufacture the ER/MP system,” said Thomas Cassidy, president of Aircraft Systems Group, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. “The company’s many skilled engineers, technicians, and production personnel are extremely proud of what they do and are pleased to show the army soldiers how they manufacture the aircraft. Their daily commitment to excellence ensures that every Sky Warrior aircraft delivered for combat operations is consistently of the highest quality and reliability.”
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