Hughes Network Systems was recently awarded a contract to provide new advanced satellite communications systems for the Army’s MQ-1C Gray Eagle unmanned aerial systems.

The contract, awarded by MQ-1C prime developer General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), follows a previous contract to upgrade the satcom systems on GA-ASI’s MQ-9B Sky Guardian drones. The data link modernization contract involves integrating Hughes’ advanced and ruggedized HM400 modems with the Pentagon’s waveform technology to support unique mission requirements for the Army, such as in contested environments.

“We are very excited to support GA-ASI with a modern, cost-effective and open systems architecture with the speed, flexibility and resiliency necessary to meet the next generation of mission requirements for the Army and other DoD users,” said Rick Lober, vice president and general manager of the Defense Division at Hughes, in a March 11 press release. Hughes is a wholly owned subsidiary of EchoStar Corp.

“This contract reinforces the commitment of both General Atomics and Hughes to serving the U.S. Army with enhanced communications capabilities for mission-critical unmanned platforms,” he added.

General Atomics in 2017 awarded Hughes a contract to provide satellite communications for the MQ-9B Sky Guardian UAS, a variant of the U.S. Air Force’s Predator drone in use by the United Kingdom and being procured by Belgium. Hughes began shipping the initial HM400 SATCOM modems to GA-ASI in February 2019 to provide beyond-line-of-sight communications to the MQ-9B fleet.