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Fort Drum, 10th Mountain Division may receive new drones, soldiers

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FORT DRUM — The 10th Mountain Division may receive Gray Eagle drones along with a new company of soldiers to operate them.

The news of the potential dispersal of MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones and companies to divisions across the Army was first reported Sunday by Army Times.

However, an Army spokesman said by email Tuesday afternoon that the service was still looking at its options to place the aircraft, and that a final decision about implementation had not been made.

The Army Times report said that the Gray Eagle companies, with 128 soldiers, would be placed with every active duty division along with a few separate units. The report said the Army has been authorized $500 million to field the aircraft, and $107 million to create buildings to house them for the first five installations that field them. It also said the Army had plans to field two or three companies per year until fiscal year 2018.

The 3,600-pound Gray Eagle aircraft, equipped with up to four Hellfire missiles, has been used for a variety of missions including surveillance, convoy protection and air support.

If such a placement were to happen, it would be in addition to unmanned aircraft already operating on post or being discussed.

For about a year, Fort Drum has housed the MQ-9 Reaper used by the New York Air National Guard’s 174th Attack Wing, Syracuse. In December, the unit was able to switch to using live munitions on the post’s ranges, dropping 500-pound GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs from the 10,500-pound aircraft.

The post also has been pitched as one of six possible sites for testing new drones. However, the selection process for the testing has been delayed several months by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The use of drones received increased scrutiny Tuesday since the release by NBC News of the Department of Justice’s legal reasoning for the aircraft’s use on American citizens affiliated with al-Qaida or other similar groups.

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