MOAA Endorses National Service Program

Apr 23 2015

In February, MOAA leadership took a pledge with the Franklin Project reinforcing the association’s commitment to never stop serving by ensuring every young American — military or civilian — has a chance to become civically engaged in national service through projects like the Peace Corps (above), Teach for America, military service, and many others. The Franklin Project, a private initiative sponsored by the Aspen Institute, intends to reenergize the notion of citizenship and create 1 million civilian national-service opportunities every year for Americans between the ages of 18 and 28.

MOAA President Vice Adm. Norbert R. Ryan Jr., USN (Ret), met with representatives from the Franklin Project and says he is proud to get MOAA involved in an initiative with potential to bridge the military-civilian disconnect.

“When less than 1 percent of our nation has served in the military, many Americans remain unaware of what military service means and how to talk about service,” Ryan says. “This is a worthy initiative that can help bring the country together through a shared experience.”

In addition to supporting MOAA’s pledge, individual servicemembers and veterans are encouraged to pledge support at

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Mil Tech — U.S. Army Acquires More Gray Eagle UAVs

Apr 06 2015

Published by under Technology

The U.S. Army will be fielding more Gray Eagle unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for use at the division and corps level once the units roll off the line at General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. The Army recently awarded the company a $133 million contract for 19 Gray Eagles that’s a second purchase on a full-rate production contract.

Courtesy of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems

Courtesy of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems

Gray Eagle is a long-endurance UAV designed for reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (RSTA); communication relay; and attack capabilities. The 27-1/2-foot long aircraft has a 56-foot wingspan, a maximum altitude of 29,000 feet, and a 3,600-pound gross takeoff weight.

“Doing surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance are Gray Eagle’s main focuses,” says Mike Cardenas, deputy director for the Army Programs Office at General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. “It also has two radios on-board for the purpose of acting as a communications relay to talk with soldiers in the field in real time. In addition, Gray Eagle has four hard points, two on the outside of the wings for 250-pound intel-based payloads and two on the inside part of the wings that can carry 500-pound Hellfire missiles.”

When used in a RTSA configuration, Gray Eagle’s time on station for a location 300 kilometers from its launch point is about 20 hours, Cardenas says.

“If it’s loaded up with Hellfires and other payloads, at 300 klicks it is closer to 13 to 15 hours on station at 10,000 feet,” he observes.

Gray Eagle comes with two line-of-sight antennas, but the aircraft is being supplied to the Army with a satellite antenna that can be mounted to give the aircraft over-the-horizon capability. Gray Eagle also has a fully automated takeoff and landing system.

Cardenas points out that Gray Eagle is meant to be more of a tactical asset for division commanders, but also can be used as a strategic asset.

The Army’s Gray Eagle can be launched, controlled, and recovered at the location where’s it’s operational, Cardenas notes, compared with a U.S. Air Force UAV that might be launched and then have control of the unit given over to someone flying the aircraft via SATCOM (satellite communications).

“A unique element to the Gray Eagle is that it has manned-unmanned teaming, which is used between UAVs and Apache helicopters,” Cardenas says. “Once the Gray Eagle is up, an Apache can take control of the aircraft [and] its payload and Hellfire missiles in order to work together to target a certain location.”

Cardenas says manned-unmanned teaming was part of the operational testing criteria General Atomics Aeronautical Systems carried out in the summer of 2012.

“Shots were fired in teaming with an Apache during the testing,” he notes, “and we had very good success with it.”

Cardenas points out that for all the unmanned aircraft systems that General Atomics Aeronautical Systems makes, manned-unmanned teaming is unique to the Gray Eagle.

“Thus far we have not incorporated it into other assets,” he says, “although it could be done, depending on the system and the customer’s needs.”

Deliveries on the second Gray Eagle purchase contract will be made through September 2017.

About the author: Alan M. Petrillo is a Tucson, Ariz., journalist who writes for national and regional magazines and newspapers. He’s the author of the historical mystery, Full Moon; the nonfiction work, Ice Hockey in the Desert; and his newest historical mystery, Asylum Lane, all available at

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The Campaign to Change Direction Launch

Mar 04 2015

Photo by Rene Campos

Photo by Rene Campos

MOAA was honored to participate a summit held here today in Washington, DC, launching ‘The Campaign to Change Direction’, a national initiative aimed at increasing public awareness around topics of mental health, mental illness and wellness. As part of collective effort led by Give an Hour, 50 other campaign partners like MOAA, have pledged their support over the next five years in helping create a new story and way for society to respond to mental health.

Inspired at a White House National Conference on Mental Health in 2013, ‘Change Direction’, this transformative movement is to help address a growing trend today—that is, one in five Americans are living with a diagnosable mental health condition, and it is expected that more Americans will die by suicide than in car accidents this year. Often friends, neighbors, co-workers, and even family members are suffering emotionally and don’t recognize the symptoms or won’t ask for help. The five signs of suffering icons provide an easy tool for recognizing emotional pain in yourself, in a loved one or in others.

Featured keynote at the summit was First Lady Michelle Obama. She talked about the many military, veterans and their families who return home okay, and those who have returned home with a diagnosed with a mental health condition, she praised them for showing tremendous courage and strength in seeking help and sharing their experiences.

MOAA has pledged to raise awareness of the initiative through our annual Warrior-Family Symposium, leveraging our Military Coalition relations, and through our print and online publications. “The mental well-being of our troops, veterans, and their families has long been a concern and mission for MOAA, and we look forward to helping raise awareness of mental health at such a critical time—a natural extension of our service to nation and our service to the brave, men and women and their families in and out of uniform,” said VADM Norb Ryan, MOAA president. This campaign is an extension of MOAA’s continued service to America and to our brave military, veterans and their families.

Learn more about the National Campaign to Change Direction at

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Mil Tech — Navy, Marine Corps Order Blackjack Small Tactical UAVs

Mar 03 2015

Published by under Technology

The U.S. Navy is purchasing three RQ-21A Blackjack small tactical unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Boeing Insitu Inc. in Bingen, Wash., to provide information, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities for tactical commanders in the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy.


The $41.1 million contract was awarded by the Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md.

The RQ-21A Blackjack is 8.2 feet long, has a 16-foot wingspan, weighs 81 pounds, and carries multi-sensor payloads in a under-nose pod. The UAV uses a pneumatic launcher and net-style recovery system, allowing it to be launched and recovered on both sea and land.

Blackjack’s maximum payload weight is 39 pounds with its standard payload configuration of an electro-optic imager, a mid-wave infrared imager, a laser rangefinder, an infrared marker, and a communications relay and automatic identification system.

Key features of the Blackjack, according to Insitu, are the rapid integration of new payloads for expanded mission sets; its roll-on, roll-off capability that supports ship-to-objective maneuvers; its minimal footprint that accommodates small sites and deck operations; and the fact it is expeditionary and runway independent to support tactical missions on land and sea.

The RQ-21A Blackjack features an endurance of up to 16 hours and has a ceiling of 19,500 feet. Blackjack uses an 8-horsepower reciprocating engine with electronic fuel injection and can ingest both JP-5 and JP-8 fuel. It’s cruising speed is 60 knots, and its maximum horizontal speed is in excess of 90 knots.

The RQ-21A Blackjack started its development in 2010 for the Navy and Marine Corps and was the first organic and dedicated multi-intelligence unmanned aerial system available to Marine and Navy tactical commanders.

The Navy expects Blackjack to provide real time situational awareness information to its ships, Navy special warfare units and expeditionary combat command forces, and Marine Corps land forces.

The Marine Corps will use Blackjack for dedicated real-time ISR for its expeditionary forces, divisions, and regiments, with information being delivered to a tactical commander.

About the author: Alan M. Petrillo is a Tucson, Ariz., journalist who writes for national and regional magazines and newspapers. He’s the author of the historical mystery, Full Moon; the nonfiction work, Ice Hockey in the Desert; and his newest historical mystery, Asylum Lane, all available at

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The Marines of Montford Point

Feb 27 2015


In honor of African American History Month, we’re sharing some of our favorite past features and stories about African Americans in the military through the month of February!

Learn about the Congressional Gold Medal the Montford Point Marines were awarded in 2011, and how they led the country to victory in war and in civil rights!

The Montford Point Marines entered the Armed Forces as a segregated unit during World War II. Their success paved the way for other African American units before the Marine Corps was officially desegregated in 1949.


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