The drone airport to be built at Training Area 4D of the Dona Ana Range on Fort Bliss will have a 5,000-foot paved runway and a smaller 1,000-foot paved runway, as well as a 50,000 square-foot hangar with office and support buildings, a command and control center, a hot loading facility for munitions, and a hazardous materials building.
Officials of the Fort Worth District of the Army Corps of Engineers in Fort Worth, Texas, announced a $33 million contract to construction specialist SGS LLC in Oklahoma City, Okla., to build the UAV launch and recovery complex at Fort Bliss. The UAV airport and its facilities should be completed by April 2016.
Construction of the UAV airport at Fort Bliss is part of a larger Army plan begun in 2012 to equip each Army combat division with UAVs. The Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) at Fort Eustis, Va., is overseeing an Army reorganization to put a Grey Eagle company in every Army division.
The Army's 1st Armored Division headquartered at Fort Bliss, which the new UAV airport will support, operates the M1A2SEP Abrams main battle tank; M2A3 & M3A3 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles; M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzer; M1151 Humvee and Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) armored vehicles; Stryker wheeled armored vehicle; the UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopter; AH-64 Apache attack helicopter; and other pieces of combat equipment.
The division consists of two heavy brigade combat teams, infantry brigade combat teams, a Stryker brigade, an artillery brigade, a sustainment brigade, and combat aviation brigade.
With the 2012 TRADOC-ordered reorganization and construction of the new UAV airport, the 1st Armored Division is adding the MQ-1C Gray Eagle medium-altitude long-endurance UAV, as well as the RQ-7 Shadow tactical reconnaissance UAV to its arsenal of weapons.
At Fort Bliss the 5,000-foot paved runway is for the Grey Eagle, and the 1,000-foot paved runway is for the Shadow. The air facilities will include a 1,000-foot cleared and graded dirt safety run-out zone at each end of the Grey Eagle airfield.
The new UAV airfield at Fort Bliss will have security fencing and lighting around the complex's perimeter, and all UAV operations at Fort Bliss will be within military-restricted airspace, officials say.
One company of Grey Eagle soldiers will be stationed at Fort Bliss including 128 soldiers and nine Grey Eagle UAVs -- four assembled and five stored in boxes. The UAVs will operate during the day and at night five to seven days a week, and will carry live and inert Hellfire missiles.
Grey Eagle is a medium-sized diesel-powered UAV that is 29 feet long with a wingspan of 56.3 feet. I can fly as fast as 170 miles per hour for as long as 36 hours at altitudes to 29,000 feet. The UAV is an upgraded and armed version of the MQ-1 Predator.
The smaller gasoline-powered Shadow, used for tactical surveillance, is 11 feet long with a wingspan of 14 feet. It can fly at altitudes to 14,000 feet for as long as six hours. Shadow launches with a catapult and lands with the aid of arresting cables or a runway barrier.
For more information contact SGS LLC online at www.sgs-llc.net, the Fort Worth District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at www.swf.usace.army.mil, the 1st Armored Division at www.bliss.army.mil/1AD, or Fort Bliss at www.bliss.army.mil.