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By Capt. John A. Escalera, Test Officer, Fixed Wing/Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Test Division, Aviation Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs

AIR FORCE PLANT 42, Calif. – Aviation testers here recently completed testing of an improved Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) known as the MQ1C Gray Eagle Extended Range (GE-ER).

The GE-ER test is a follow-on test and evaluation (FOT&E) intended to provide data that will enable evaluators to assess the capability of the system.

“We designed the test events to provide data to validate the systems effectiveness, suitability, and survivability. Data we collect here will highlight the system’s ability to meet mission range and endurance standards. Additionally, we will provide observations that will enable evaluators to assess the unit organizational design and ability to sustain mission operations,” said Mr. John Moltenberry, GE-ER FOT&E Test Officer. 

GE-ER boasts a robust, high capacity fuel system intended to bridge the operational gap to enable combatant commanders to meet mission requirements at extended distances in emerging theaters of operation.

“Having a long endurance, extended range platform gives you the ability to see and plan for possible outcomes from a safe distance. This enables commanders to safely and effectively shape their operations,” said Chief Warrant Officer Two Barry Reed, UAS Technician, Company D, 10th Aviation Regiment, 10th Mountain Division.  

The Fort Hood based Aviation Test Directorate (AVTD) of the United States Army Operational Test Command (USAOTC) linked up with the Soldiers of Company F, 2nd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) (Airborne) to conduct Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) mission’s representative of operationally realistic scenarios that the test unit would encounter during contingency operations.

“The test unit provided 24/7 ISR support to a Brigade Combat Team (BCT) rotation at the National Training Center (NTC). This FOT&E provided the highest level of operational realism possible outside of an actual deployment,” Moltenberry added.

“Years of conflict overseas has proven that there is an operational need for a very diverse set of ISR support in the field. Early on, the operational value of UAS was focused on still images but as capabilities developed, so did the need to provide timely and relevant intelligence to ground force commanders,” said Chief Warrant Officer Two Eric Lopez, UAS Technician, 224th Military Intelligence Battalion, 116th MI Bde.  

The test unit provided real time ISR support to the 52nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) of the Pennsylvania National Guard during the brigade’s rotation at the NTC, Fort Irwin, California.

“Using the aircraft to support an NTC rotation allowed the system to be employed under operationally realistic conditions, with actual forces on the ground, live operational networks and world-class Opposing Forces (OPFOR),” Moltenberry added. 

GE-ER test events had a significant impact toward achieving the Army Vision. The Army Chief of Staff recently outlined several key objectives that are critical to meet the Army Vision. Units from brigade through corps must have the ability to conduct sustained ground and air ISR to shape the battlefield across all domains.

“ISR gives a combatant commander the situational awareness they need in order to make critical operational decisions. The work we are doing here with the FOT&E is key to achieving the Army Vision for sustained ISR and sets a strong foundation for future acquisitions efforts,” said Lt. Col. Richard Baylie, chief of the Fixed Wing/Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance test division of the AVTD, USAOTC.

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About the U.S. Army Operational Test Command:

The Aviation Test Directorate at West Fort Hood, Texas, plans and conducts operational tests and reports on manned and unmanned aviation-related equipment to include attack, reconnaissance, cargo and lift helicopters, fixed wing aircraft, tactical trainers, ground support equipment, and aviation countermeasure systems.

As the Army’s only independent operational tester, USAOTC tests Army, joint, and multi-service warfighting systems in realistic operational environments, using typical Soldiers to determine whether the systems are effective, suitable, and survivable. USAOTC is required by public law to test major systems before they are fielded to its ultimate customer — the American Soldier.