House appropriators include $240M for modernized Gray Eagles in draft spending bill

By Dan Schere / June 4, 2024 at 4:37 PM

The House Appropriations defense subcommittee has included $240 million for procurement of MQ-1C Gray Eagle 25M unmanned aircraft systems in its draft defense spending legislation for fiscal year 2025.

The aircraft would be used in the Army National Guard, according to a bill summary released with the bill text Tuesday morning.

The GE25M is a modernized version of the Gray Eagle that maker General Atomics states is built for multidomain operations capability and can be used in active duty and National Guard units. It features a multimode radar and electro-optical/infrared sensors and can “host a wide range of additional kinetic and non-kinetic payloads,” according to the company.

In recent years, the Army has not included funding in its base budgets for procurement of additional Gray Eagles due to having already met its acquisition goal of 204 aircraft by the end of 2019. However, in the years since, Congress has continued to provide funding to procure additional aircraft beyond that total. In FY-23, Congress included $350 million in its defense spending legislation for the procurement of 12 Gray Eagles for the Guard.

Separately, General Atomics announced May 31 that the Army had ordered 12 of the new GE 25M aircraft that are being paid for with FY-23 congressional funding. Leaders in the Guard asked for the aircraft in order to ensure its divisions “mirror the active component in being Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) capable, deployable and better able to team with newly formed Division Artillery Brigades,” according to General Atomics. The aircraft can also support homeland defense, disaster response and other domestic missions.

Adding the new Gray Eagles to the Guard will give its divisions “divisional reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition for the first time.”

Patrick Shortsleeve, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems’ vice president of DOD Strategic Development, said in a statement last week that the Gray Eagle platform has a “proven record of performance with over a million hours of safe operations, including automatic takeoff and landing capability.”

“The aircraft excels as an enabler for fires, maneuver, network and intelligence operations. It is also an integral part of the Army aviation team, working closely with manned rotary-wing systems to achieve overmatch against pacing threats,” he said in the statement.