The U.S. Army has switched production of its MQ-1C Gray Eagle to the new MQ-1C ER (extended range) version and starting in 2018 this is the only model the army will receive. The army has ordered 107 MQ-1Cs since 2010 and even more of the ER version are expected in the future.
The original MQ-1C Block 1 Gray Eagle weighs 1.5 tons, carries 135.4 kg (300 pounds) of sensors internally, and up to 227.3 kg (500 pounds) of sensors or weapons externally. It has an endurance of 30 hours and a top speed of 270 kilometers an hour. MQ-1C has a wingspan of 18 meters (56 feet) and is 9 meters (28 feet) long. The MQ-1C can carry four Hellfire missiles (compared to two on the Predator) or a dozen smaller 70mm guided missiles.
The MQ-1C ER has a better engine, fifty percent more fuel capacity, over 75 percent more endurance (from 30 to 53 hours), and its payload increased by 50 percent from 372 kg (798 pounds) to 558 kg (1,227 pounds). The fuselage has been modified to handle the increased fuel load and has greater reliability and stability in the air. The additional internal space makes it easier to install a Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) that makes it possible to fly in airspace used by civilian manned aircraft.
The MQ-1C is an upgrade of the MQ-1 Predator the U.S. Air Force and CIA used extensively since the late 1990s to redefine the use of aircraft for reconnaissance, surveillance and airstrikes. Fewer than 500 MQ-1s were produced for the air force and CIA before both organizations moved on to the larger MQ-9 Reaper. Meanwhile the army got a customized upgrade of the MQ-1 into production and found it satisfactory. The MQ-9 is larger than the army needs (or can afford) but the MQ-1C was the right size for what the army needed done.