San Diego Air & Space Museum Honors GA-ASI Executives with Hall of Fame Induction

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Admiral Cassidy

Frank Pace, Tom Cassidy Inducted into International Air & Space Hall of Fame

SAN DIEGO – 25 November 2015 – 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 Frank W. Pace, GA-ASI’s current Aircraft Systems president, and Thomas J. Cassidy, former Aircraft Systems president, have been inducted into the San Diego International Air & Space Museum’s Hall of Fame for their bold contributions to the RPA industry, fortifying the company’s status within an elite top tier of global defense contractors.

“Frank Pace and Tom Cassidy have forever changed the landscape of the aerospace industry through their tireless efforts to create game-changing, state-of-the-art RPA systems, and both are pivotal players in the company’s continued worldwide success,” said Linden Blue, CEO, GA-ASI. “On behalf of GA-ASI, I thank them for their ongoing contributions to warfighters around the world who rely on our products for their unparalleled situational awareness and life-saving capabilities.”

Frank Pace has overseen approximately 70-percent of the flight hours accumulated by company aircraft in the last five years. This milestone serves as testament to the visionary leadership he has provided over the course of his 24-year career with GA-ASI. Pace’s impact to the success of the organization can be measured by the successful conceptualization, development, and delivery of Predator® and Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper® to the U.S. Air Force; development and delivery of Altair® to NASA; entry into production of Predator C Avenger®, and development and production of Predator XP. The success of these aircraft has resulted in the dramatic expansion of both the company’s domestic and international customer base, which includes NASA, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, UK, Italy, France, and the UAE. It is noteworthy to mention that in addition to his applied leadership in aircraft development, Pace has led numerous key demonstrations, including the implementation of RPA satellite communications (SATCOM), Predator Hellfire missiles, and Sky Warrior® and Gray Eagle for the U.S. Army.

Rear Admiral Thomas Cassidy (Ret., U.S. Navy) has left a legacy at GA-ASI that is enduring and has set a solid course for the company’s current success. His specific efforts have established GA-ASI as the global leader in RPA systems. Predator/Gray Eagle-series aircraft have been accepted by U.S. and foreign governments into everyday operations and have revolutionized the way the U.S. military fights wars and defends the homeland. During Cassidy’s tenure, he was instrumental in establishing a strong corporate culture that promoted quality, leadership, and entrepreneurship. These attributes established the foundation which can be measured by the current success of GA-ASI operations, including design, manufacturing, training, and support activities of the organization’s RPA programs. Of specific note, Cassidy led the development of the MQ-9 Reaper® and Avenger which are in the U.S. inventory and operationally supporting U.S. interests worldwide. Cassidy retired from the day-to-day management of the Aircraft Systems business unit in March 2010 but remains on the company’s Board of Directors as Chairman of its Executive Committee.

“The significant contributions that Mr. Pace and Mr. Cassidy have made over the span of their impressive aerospace careers have transformed the global RPA industry, and the San Diego Air & Space Museum is proud to induct them into our International Air & Space Hall of Fame,” said Jim Kidrick, president and CEO, San Diego Air & Space Museum. “Through their efforts, GA-ASI continues to push the envelope into new frontiers, successfully creating cutting-edge capabilities to protect U.S. and allied forces in combat, support homeland defense, and expand the RPA market worldwide.”

The International Air & Space Hall of Fame represents the commemoration of those, who throughout history and around the world, have made a significant difference and whose contributions are worthy of special recognition. The list of previous honorees are some of the world’s most significant aviation pilots, crew members, visionaries, inventors, aerospace engineers, businessmen, designers, spokesmen, and space pioneers. Previous inductees include Orville and Wilbur Wright, Howard Hughes, Charles Lindbergh, Chuck Yeager, and Buzz Aldrin.

Air Force hires contracted drone pilots for combat patrols; critics “drone on” about legality

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The Air Force has hired civilian defense contractors to fly MQ-9 Reaper drones to help track suspected militants and other targets in global hot spots, a previously undisclosed expansion in the privatization of once-exclusively military functions.

For the first time, civilian pilots and crews now operate what the Air Force calls “combat air patrols,” daily round-the-clock flights above areas of military operations to provide video and collect other sensitive intelligence.

Contractors control two Reaper patrols a day, but the Air Force plans to expand that to 10 a day by 2019. Each patrol involves up to four drones.

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Another 1st; Gray Eagle | Apache Conducts Manned-Unmanned Teaming in South Korea

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SAN DIEGO – 18 November 2015 – 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 a U.S. Army Gray Eagle Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) recently conducted manned-unmanned teaming exercises in South Korea. Exercise support was conducted in August 2015 from Kunsan Air Base, South Korea.

“These flights represent a major milestone for the MQ-1C Gray Eagle as they successfully demonstrated manned-unmanned teaming in South Korea and proved the aircraft’s ability to conduct operations in diverse weather conditions that are typical on the Korean Peninsula,” said Frank W. Pace, president, Aircraft Systems, GA-ASI. “They also marked a new company milestone for Gray Eagle with its first mission in South Korean airspace.”

During the exercise, the Gray Eagle UAS streamed video and metadata via a line-of-sight data link directly to a U.S. Army AH-64 Apache helicopter from extended distances. The Apache subsequently was able to re-transmit the imagery to a One System Remote Video Terminal (OSRVT), allowing ground forces to view the video from the helicopter. Field commanders within the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) were able to receive both live Gray Eagle streaming video and re-transmitted video sent by the Apache. Once Gray Eagle was airborne, U.S. ground forces passed contact reports and target coordinates to operators in the aircraft’s One System Ground Control Station (OSGCS). The operators were then able to direct the Gray Eagle’s sensors to positively identify and track the targets.

Technologically advanced and combat proven, the MQ-1C Gray Eagle is an Army Division and Echelons Above Division organic asset directly controlled by Army field commanders. Its expansive mission set includes persistent, broad-area Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition (RSTA); communications relay; convoy protection; Improvised Explosive Device (IED) detection; pattern of life analysis; and precision weapons delivery. A key force multiplier, Gray Eagle has an endurance of up to 25 hours, an operating altitude of up to 25,000 feet, and payload capacity of over 1,000 pounds.

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USAF struggles to fill drone pilot seats

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Deep in the 60,000 acres of desert on this desolate air base, past a billboard that shows a Predator soaring in the sky, lies a high-security compound where America’s drone pilots learn to hunt and kill from half a world away.

But “the Farm,” as the little-known Air Force boot camp is known, faces a crisis.

Experienced pilots and crews complain of too much work, too much strain and too little chance for promotion operating the Predator and Reaper drones that provide surveillance and that fire missiles in Iraq, Syria and other war zones. Partly as a result, too few young officers want to join their ranks.

The Air Force has struggled with a drone pilot shortage since at least 2007, records show. In fiscal year 2014, the most recent data available, the Air Force trained 180 new pilots while 240 veterans left the field.

“It’s extremely stressful and extremely difficult,” said Peter “Pepe” LeHew, who retired in 2012 and joined private industry. He called the work, which sometimes involved flying surveillance in one country in the morning and bombing another in the afternoon, “mentally fatiguing.”

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DARPA Moves Forward with Fast, Light weight, Autonomy Program… Drones that fly like Birds

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The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — the government agency that funds future technology — has awarded $3.4 million to two Cambridge groups to build speedy miniature drones that function as scouts for first responders.

Some day, the idea goes, tiny flying robots will zip into burning, crumbling buildings and scope out the space before firefighters and first-responders enter.
It’s all part of DARPA’s Fast Lightweight Autonomy program that the agency announced in December last year.

In a request for proposals, DARPA compared the agility required of their machines to nature’s aerial champs: “Birds and flying insects maneuver easily at high speeds near obstacles. The FLA program asks the question ‘How can autonomous flying robotic systems achieve similar high-speed performance?’ ”

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MQ-9 Guardian Maritime Patrol Concept; Delivering Sonobuoys

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General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. has introduced a new sonobuoy capability for its MQ-9 Guardian maritime unmanned air vehicle which, alongside a number of other developing technologies, could make it a contender to help fill the UK’s maritime patrol gap.

A concept was presented at the Royal Navy’s maritime awareness conference at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall on 24 September, which showed a number of sonobuoys being released from a bay on the UAV.

While a requirement for a maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) acquisition has yet to be released from the UK government, the developments that General Atomics is incorporating into the MQ-9 suggests that it will look to offer a modified Guardian to complement a manned MPA that is expected to be procured.

The new sonobuoy capability has been developed alongside Ultra Electronics over two years, Jonny King, director for General Atomics’ UK division, says.

“What we’re really looking at is a Predator B carrying sonobuoys, controlling them, and sending sonobuoy information back to the ground station over a SATCOM link,” King says.

“The work has seen us put the system together in a lab and carry out ground testing and prove it end to end. We were ready to go flying in 2015, but the aircraft were diverted to more urgent work. So we will be flying this early in the new year to prove the system.”

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It’s Official, Improved Gray Eagle to Enter Production for US Army

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The Army has awarded a contract to General Atomics for full-rate production of 19 Improved Gray Eagle (IGE) unmanned aerial systems, the company has announced. The systems will be delivered by September 2018.

General Atomics also manufactures the highly acclaimed Predator and larger Reaper, both of which are operated by the Air Force.

According to General Atomics, “IGE is a next-generation advanced derivative of the Army’s mission-proven Gray Eagle UAS that has accumulated over 228,000 flight hours since 2008.” While the Gray Eagleand Improved Gray Eagle are very similar in terms of air speed, flights ceiling and payload, they differ in endurance. The IGE’s endurance capability is almost double that of the Gray Eagle—48 hours to 25 hours respectively—though the Army lists the Gray Eagle’s endurance at greater than 30 hours in its UAS Roadmap.

The Gray Eagle is weaponized, capable of carrying four Hellfire missiles. The IGE will deliver “improved, game-changing capabilities that will perform ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] collection and close air support of ground forces through longer persistence, a variety of sensor and weapons payloads, and extended range that affords the ability to operate from safe locations and transit into areas of conflict,” General Atomics said.

Since there are relatively few differences in software and operation, the IGE can be easily integrated with existing Gray Eagle units.

As the Defense Department seeks to increase the number of daily drone orbits, or combat air patrols, by  nearly 50 percent by 2019, DOD will be relying on the Army, Special Operations Command and, to a smaller degree, contractors to pick up the extra slack from the Air Force, which will operate 60 CAPs. By 2019, DOD wants 90 CAPS to address the gaps in aerial ISR with threats seeming to continue to proliferate.

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ScanEagles for Cameroon, Kenya and Pakistan

Foreign military sales fit nicely with AFRICOM shortfalls in Airborne ISR..

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Insitu has received three export contracts for its ScanEagle unmanned air vehicle that will see it deliver the system to Cameroon, Kenya and Pakistan.

Under the USA’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme, Cameroon and Kenya will receive one ScanEagle system each by September 2016, through deals worth $9.39 million and $9.86 million respectively, the US Department of Defense announced on 29 September.

The acquisitions for Cameroon and Kenya will include 50% of the work on each contract being carried out in-country, and will see the delivery of analogue medium wave infra-red ScanEagle UAVs, launch and recovery equipment, ground control stations, Insitu video exploitation systems and ground support equipment for the governments, says the contract notice

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Drones with Laser Weapons are coming

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THE FUTURE OFFICIALLY ARRIVES IN 2017

How do you sell the drone of the future? Build a laser into the dang thing. General Atomics, whose iconic Predator and Reaper drones are probably the first thing that come to mind when someone thinks “drone,” is independently funding the integration of a 150-kilowatt laser weapon into its Avenger (or Predator-C) drone. The Avenger is the younger, jet-powered sibling to the iconic “War on Terror” drones, but it still hasn’t yet found its niche. Carrying afreakin’ laser may change that, and make it an attractive tool for the Pentagon.

It helps that the laser is particularly powerful. The American military is developing several laser weapons, like the Army’s truck-carried HEL MD, but that one was first tested with a 10kW laser, with plans to increase it to 50kW and then 100 kW. Last year the U.S. Navy actually deployed a laser weapon to the Persian Gulf, but the Laser Weapon System mounted on the USS Ponce is only 30kW. Power matters, though it’s not the only factor. For a laser to burn through a target, it needs both time and power. Ground- or ship-mounted lasers can afford to be a little weaker since, unlike fast-moving planes, it’s likely they can keep their beam on target longer.

The Avenger flies at up to 460 mph, so its more powerful 150kW laser is one way to ensure it destroys what it hits, whether it’s another drone or an incoming missile. Targeting computers help too.

Defense One notes that the company has its work cut out for it:

Bringing these two technologies together involves a lot more than strapping a laser cannon under the drone’s wings. Hitting a target with a laser mounted on a vibrating platform moving quickly through air laden with dust and water vapor is tougher than launching a Hellfire at a moving vehicle.

“Before you spend any money on a laser you better darn well show that you can acquire, ID, and track the objects of interest so that you could put a laser on them,” said [General Atomics Vice President for Mission Systems Michael] Perry. “You have to be able to compensate for aero-optic distortion.”

The company is currently testing their laser at White Sands in New Mexico. They hope to have a laser on a drone by 2017.

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