An improved Gray Eagle in flight. Photo courtesy General Atomics

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems announced Wednesday it has been awarded a full-rate production contract by the Army for 19 Improved Gray Eagle unmanned aircraft to be delivered by September 2018.

“We are very pleased that the Army has awarded us this production contract for IGE, which delivers a high-value solution for accomplishing multiple mission types, all at an affordable cost,” said Linden Blue, CEO of the Poway-based company. “IGE provides better endurance, additional payload capacity, easier maintenance, and extended life cycle of critical components.”

The total value of all phases of the contract is $358 million, according to Defense Department contract records. The Army plans to eventually acquire as many as 36 of the new model, which is based on the iconic Predator drone.

The Improved Grey Eagle is an advanced version the Army’s mission-proven Gray Eagle that has accumulated over 228,000 flight hours since 2008. The new model can fly for up to 40 hours at an altitude of 29,000 feet and carry sensors and missiles.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.