It’s no secret that the US military is heavily invested in drone aircraft for reconnaissance and combat, but you might never have known how much until now. The US Army has announced its plans to build a massive airport at Fort Bliss in Fort Worth, Texas. This facility will be exclusively for the testing and maintenance of unmanned aerial vehicles. And no, you can’t visit.
The airport is being built by military contractor SGS and will be 150 acres in size when complete. The army plans to operate both Gray Eagle and Shadow drones from the location, each with their own facility requirements. The Gray Eagle (based on the more famous Predator drone) is larger than you probably think when you hear “drone.” It has a wingspan of 56 feet and has a maximum takeoff weight 4,200 lbs. Capable of carrying four missiles or four bombs on its hardpoints, this unmanned vehicle needs a big runway to get airborne. Designers of the Fort Bliss airfield plan a of 5,000 foot runway to accommodate the Gray Eagle.
The other drone calling the new facility home will be the much smaller Shadow drone. Its wingspan is only 14 feet and it’s not designed for direct combat roles. Shadows are deployed mostly for surveillance, target acquisition, IED detection, and damage assessment. This drone is usually launched in the field with the aid of a trailer-mounted pneumatic catapult, but it gets a spacious 1,000 foot runway at the new Texas facility… see more