Fort Wainwright to house combat Gray Eagles

Photo/U.S. Army/Spc. Latoya Wiggins

Fort Wainwright is getting nine Gray Eagle unmanned combat aircraft, according to a June 8 release from Alaska’s congressional delegation.

The Gray Eagle Company includes 128 military personnel that will relocate to the Fairbanks-area U.S. Army base, the release states.

Army officials told the delegation that there are plans to construct a permanent unmanned aerial system, or UAS, facility at Fort Wainwright if the funding is included in the 2017 fiscal year budget. In the interim, the aircraft will be stored in an existing facility.

The delegation members said the announcement confirms the importance of Alaska to Department of Defense strategy.

“Alaska is the tip of the spear when it comes to the Pentagon’s strategic shift to the Asia-Pacific, but the Pentagon clearly sees it as a superior choice to also respond to increasing military activities in the Arctic,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski said in a release.

In February, the Defense Department revealed Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and Fort Wainwright are on a list of 30 bases across the country that could see force reductions as part of a budget control effort to cut the Army’s total force from 570,000 soldiers to 450,000 by 2017.

Residents of Anchorage and Fairbanks turned out in droves during listening sessions to tell Army leaders how much the military presence in the state means to Alaskans.

“The Gray Eagle Company will provide benefit to Alaskan service members by allowing them to train as they fight — with support from Gray Eagles, Apaches, and Air Force assets at JBER and Eielson (Air Force Base),” Rep. Don Young said.

Sen. Dan Sullivan, a Marine Corps Reserve officer, said military intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance has never been more important.

“Now more than ever, ground commanders need to see and understand the battlefield, and the Gray Eagle is a critical component of for the U.S. Army to do that,” Sullivan said. “Importantly, basing the Gray Eagle at Fort Wainwright, near the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, will give the U.S. Army access to some of the world’s most expansive and robust training ranges.”

The General Atomics Aeronautical Gray Eagle is a large UAS with a 56-foot wingspan and a ceiling of 29,000 feet. It has a maximum flight time of 25 hours, according to the manufacturer.

Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected].

11/21/2016 - 7:48pm