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The US Army National Guard (ARNG) has received fiscal year 2023 Congressional funding for 12 new Gray Eagle 25M (GE-25M) unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), manufacturer General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) announced on 26 April 2023. Each UAS will include a single unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) plus its associated ground control station and supporting equipment.

The funding comes after Army National Guard states, which make up 45% of the US Army’s combat divisions, requested GE-25M UAVs to make ARNG divisions multi-domain operations (MDO) capable, deployable, and better able to team with newly formed division artillery brigades. The Gray Eagles will also be available to support domestic missions, such as homeland defence and disaster response, as needed, GA-ASI explained.

The GE-25M was introduced by GA-ASI in October 2022 as the latest variant of the MQ-1C medium-altitude, long-endurance UAV. It introduces a modular open systems approach (MOSA) across the air vehicle and its ground system architectures, enabling rapid integration of advanced payloads and communications equipment, along with artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) capabilities. The GE-25M also has advanced datalinks and an upgraded propulsion system. It is equipped with the new Eagle-Eye multi-mode radar as well as electro-optical/infrared sensors and can host a wide range of additional payloads, including weapons.

“The GE-25M is a very versatile aircraft,” GA-ASI Vice President of DoD Strategic Development Patrick Shortsleeve was quoted as saying in a company press release. “Gray Eagle is a valuable tool that gives the ARNG capabilities that match the organisational and doctrinal reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (RSTA) requirements of active army divisions with up to 40 hours of continuous flight.”

The US Army National Guard’s acquisition of GA-ASI Gray Eagle 25M UAVs will give ARNG divisions a divisional ISR capability for the first time. (Photo: GA-ASI)

“Equipping ARNG divisions with organic GE-25Ms makes possible the necessary mission planning, targeting, communications, detailed co-ordination, and realistic training needed to employ the systems successfully in combat,” stated GA-ASI, noting that the GE-25M will allow ARNG divisions to have a divisional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capability for the first time.

Operating the system will also allow ARNG Gray Eagle companies to deploy to operational theatres and conflicts where, to date, only regular army Gray Eagle units have been supporting deployments.

“The Gray Eagle UAS has a proven record of performance with millions of hours of safe operations, including automatic take-off and landing capability,” the company said. “The aircraft excels as an enabler for fires, maneuver, network, and intelligence operations. It is also an integral part of the Army Aviation team, working closely with manned rotary-wing systems to achieve overmatch against pacing threats.”

Peter Felstead