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GA-ASI Offers Modified MQ-1C UAV as FARA Alternative

GA-ASI Offers Modified MQ-1C UAV as FARA Alternative

GA-ASI, the aerospace wing of the U.S.-based General Atomics, plans to offer a modified MQ-1C Gray Eagle armed UAV as an alternative to cancelled FARA helicopters. Following the cancellation of FARA’s next-generation armed scout helicopter programme, GA-ASI is pushing to replace the expensive next-generation scout helicopters with a modified MQ-1C Gray Eagle. GA-ASI official Dave Alexander told Breaking Defense that the company is “trying to jump into the opportunity,” referring to the cancellation of the FARA programme. MQ-1C Gray Eagle is the latest version of the MQ-1 line of UAVs with upgrades to avionics, engine, and payload options. Up to four AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles can be carried in armed configuration. The company is also working on the Mojave-armed UAV with STOL capabilities for runways in poor conditions and rapid deployability in mind. Some of Mojave’s technologies are drawn from the MQ-1C Gray Eagle, but unlike the long-serving UAV, Mojave’s turboprop engine and large wing area allow for more payload capacity in terms of weight. The risks of operating scout helicopters in a 21st-century battle space should be observed to understand why the U.S. Army moved away from FARA. With the proliferation and advancement of short-range air defence systems, scout helicopters have become too vulnerable to conduct armed reconnaissance and target-finding duties as they fly too low. This risk is further reinforced by the costs and the danger of losing highly trained pilots. However, UAVs for the same mission have proven themselves to be less susceptible due to their higher altitudes, more capable, with the potential to survey wider areas in the same timeframe, and, most importantly, lacking an onboard crew. With this and the U.S. push to increase the weight of drones in service considered, it is understood that the Army might be willing to swap FARA with armed UAVs for armed reconnaissance missions.

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