Reuters informs that the Biden administration plans to sell to Ukraine four MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones that can be armed with AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. However, the sale of the General Atomics drones could still be blocked by Congress.
The administration of the President in the coming days intends to notify Congress of the potential sale of UAVs to Ukraine with a public announcement expected after that. A White House spokesperson referred inquiries to the Pentagon and a Pentagon spokesperson said there was “nothing to announce yet”.
In any case, the fact that the sale (probably with funds allocated by the same White House) of American attack drones is already being discussed is a very good sign. And although every commentator on our site will write “Why not MQ-9 Reaper?!”, MQ-1C Gray Eagle is also very good equipment, and if received, these UAVs will be the most powerful in the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
Although the training process for General Atomics UAVs usually takes months, a proposed preliminary training plan for experienced Ukrainian operators suggests weeks. In addition, it is appropriate to mention the words addressed to Ukrainian soldiers by their British counterparts: “Ukrainians demonstrate purposefulness in training. They do not even want to take tea breaks. They just want to continue their training and return to Ukraine as soon as possible.”
Let’s see what the MQ-1C Gray Eagle is capable of, better than the Bayraktar TB2 and worse than the MQ-9 Reaper.
MQ-1C Gray Eagle is an army variation of the MQ-1 Predator UAV, which was in service with the US Air Force and some other countries. The MQ-1C has more takeoff weight, more payload, a more powerful engine, and so on. This is especially true of the improved version of Improved Gray Eagle, which went into series in 2015. In addition, there is a version of the Gray Eagle Extended Range with an increased operating radius, which is being tested by the armed forces.
Formally, the MQ-1C Gray Eagle is the same mid-range strike drone as the Bayraktar TB2. But these are quite different “middle classes”. The American UAV is longer, has a larger wingspan, twice the takeoff weight – 1,633 kg against 700 kg in the TB2, and most importantly, can carry twice as heavy weapons. Payload MQ-1C is 360 kg against 150 kg of Turkish drone. In addition, the MQ-1C Gray Eagle is faster – 309 km/h against 220 km/h in TB2. It would be fairer to compare the MQ-1C with the Bayraktar TB3, but a heavier marine version of the Turkish UAV is just getting ready for its first takeoff.
MQ-9 Reaper is a completely different story. This is already a heavy strike drone, the most powerful of all currently in service in any army in the world. MQ-9 has the size and weight of a full-fledged light attack aircraft, such as, for example, Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano – 11 m long, wingspan – 20 m, and takeoff weight of 4,760 kg. And most importantly, 1,700 kg of payload in the internal compartments and 7 external mounting points. This is completely different firepower. Unfortunately, these UAVs are not offered to us yet.
Let’s get back to MQ-1C Gray Eagle. UAVs can be in the air for 25 hours, rising to a height of almost 9 km. At the four suspension points, the MQ-1C can carry 4 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, which are capable of destroying any armored target and even a bunker from a distance of 8 km. It is these missiles that offer to provide us along with drones. Another option is as many as 8 AIM-92 Stinger missiles against enemy drones, helicopters, planes, and even cruise missiles. The air defense so to say. And the third option is 4 planning anti-tank bombs GBU-44/B Viper Strike with laser guidance. We will gladly take it!
So let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope that these rumors are not just rumors, and the US Congress will not resist. And who knows, maybe for the first four MQ-1C Gray Eagle will come four more, and then more. And there, maybe, it will come to MQ-9. We will not refuse them.
Specifiations MQ-1C Gray Eagle
Length – 8.53 m
Wing span – 17 m
Height – 2.1 m
Maximum takeoff weight – 1,633 kg
Load capacity – 360 kg
Power drive unit – 1 × Thielert Centurion 1.7 Heavy-Fuel Engine
Capacity – 165 h/p (123 kW)
Maximum speed – 309 km/year
Endurance – 25 hours
Operating ceiling – 8,840 m
Suspension points – 4
Radar – AN/ZPY-1 STARLite
Missiles – 4×AGM-114 Hellfire or 8 × AIM-92 Stinger
Bombs – 4×GBU-44/B Viper Strike