AUSA ANNUAL, WASHINGTON – 14 October 2014 – General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI), a leading manufacturer of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) systems, radars, and electro-optic and related mission systems solutions, today announced that its Predator®/Gray Eagle®-series aircraft family has achieved a historic company and industry milestone: three million flight hours – which is the equivalent of flying over 340 years, around-the-clock, every day. The milestone occurred on October 2, with nearly 222,000 total missions completed and almost 90-percent of all missions flown in combat.
“Three million flight hours is a tremendous accomplishment that attests to the reliability and versatility of our proven technology,” said Linden P. Blue, CEO, GA-ASI. “We strive to provide solutions that support the requirements of our customers but could not have reached this milestone without the hard work and dedication of our employees. We eagerly look forward to four million flight hours and beyond and will keep focusing on improving the mission capabilities of our systems because what they can do when they’re flying is as important as keeping them airborne.”
The identification of the specific aircraft and customer that achieved the milestone is unknown as every second of every day over 68 GA-ASI aircraft are airborne worldwide. On October 2, 133 GA-ASI-manufactured aircraft were airborne at some point during the day, including Predator A, Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper®, Predator C Avenger®, Gray Eagle, and Sky Warrior®Alpha aircraft. Flight hours have continued to grow at unprecedented rates in recent years, with 500,000 flight hours achieved from 1993 to 2008, one million hours two years later in 2010, and two million hours just two years later in 2012.
Over the course of the last one million flight hours, GA-ASI has added substantial value to its aircraft family by making long endurance a key focus. In October 2013, Improved Gray Eagle (IGE), a next-generation derivative of the combat-proven Block 1 Gray Eagle unmanned aircraft system, completed its first endurance flight, flying over 45 hours. It is anticipated, with additional fuel, the IGE will have the potential to achieve more than 50 hours. This past June, Predator B Extended Range (ER), an advanced derivative of the mission-proven Predator B/ RPA, conducted its inaugural long-range endurance flight, extending the aircraft’s endurance from 27 to 34 hours. With additional fuel in the ER wings, the RPA soon will evolve to deliver 42 hours. Also in June, Predator XP, an updated version of the flagship Predator RPA that has been licensed for sale by the U.S. Government to a broader customer base, executed its first flight, offering up to 35 hours endurance.
“Customer demand for Predator/Gray Eagle-series aircraft continues to accelerate flight hours amassed, and it’s very timely for us to announce this milestone at the Army’s largest trade show of the year as Gray Eagle was a significant contributor to this achievement,” said Frank W. Pace, president, Aircraft Systems, GA-ASI. “At the same time, technology advances such as increased endurance are driven by customer input and supported by an exceptional team of partners, suppliers, and employees.”
GA-ASI aircraft are currently logging nearly 50,000 flight hours a month supporting the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, NASA, the Italian Air Force, the Royal Air Force, the French Air Force, and other customers. Missions include helping protect warfighters in world hot spots; assisting border agents in monitoring the nation’s borders; aiding first responders in the wake of natural disasters; and supporting scientists in performing Earth science missions. These aircraft continue to maintain the highest operational availability rates not only in U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army aviation, but also in the U.K. inventory. GA-ASI has produced some 700 aircraft to date and is currently building six aircraft and two ground control stations (GCS) per month, with the capacity to double production if needed.