General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc recently completed development and test of the world’s first self-contained anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability for an unmanned aircraft system (UAS).
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In late November 2020, GA-ASI successfully demonstrated an ‘A’ size sonobuoy carriage, release, process and control from a company-owned MQ-9A Block 5 on a US Navy Pacific test range.
Using a SATCOM link, GA-ASI remotely processed bathythermal and acoustic data from deployed ‘A’ size Directional Frequency Analysis and Recording (DIFAR-AN/SSQ-53G), Directional Command Activated Sonobuoy System (DICASS-AN/SSQ-62F) and Bathythermograph (BT-AN/SSQ-36B) sonobuoys and accurately generated a target track in real-time from the Laguna Flight Operations Facility located at Yuma Proving Grounds.
The MQ-9A Block 5 successfully deployed one BT, seven DIFAR, and two DICASS buoys to initiate prosecution and continuously track a MK-39 EMATT (Expendable Mobile ASW Training Target) over a three-hour period.
Target track was generated using General Dynamics Mission Systems-Canada’s industry-leading UYS-505 Sonobuoy Processing Systems. GA-ASI is developing this first-of-its-kind capability for its new MQ-9B SeaGuardian UAS in partnership with the US Navy under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland.
GA-ASI president David Alexander explained the importance of the milestone, stating, “This demonstration is a first for airborne ASW. The successful completion of this testing paves the way for future development of more anti-submarine warfare capabilities from our MQ-9s. We look forward to continuing collaboration with the US Navy as they explore innovative options for distributed maritime operations in the undersea domain.”
GA-ASI first demonstrated a sonobuoy remote processing capability in 2017 from an MQ-9A. Since then, GA-ASI has added a Sonobuoy Management & Control System (SMCS) to monitor and control deployed sonobuoys, and developed a pneumatic sonobuoy dispenser system (SDS) capable of safely carrying and deploying 10 US Navy compliant ‘A’ size or 20 ‘G’ size sonobuoys per pod.
The MQ-9B SeaGuardian has four wing stations available to carry up to four SDS pods, allowing it to carry and dispense up to 40 ‘A’ size or 80 ‘G’ size sonobuoys, and remotely perform ASW anywhere in the world.
In a standard maritime ISR and ASW configuration, SeaGuardian’s endurance exceeds 18 hours, encompassing a mission radius of 1,200 nautical miles with eight hours of on-station time for submarine prosecution, providing a low-cost complement to manned aircraft for manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) operations.
GA-ASI has already received orders for this MQ-9B SeaGuardian ASW capability from two separate foreign customers, and anticipates demand to be extremely strong for the MQ-9B SeaGuardian with its high-end maritime capabilities and low cost relative to legacy manned Maritime platforms.
GA-ASI, an affiliate of General Atomics, is a leading designer and manufacturer of proven, reliable remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) systems, radars, and electro-optic and related mission systems, including the Predator RPA series and the Lynx Multi-mode Radar.
With more than 6 million flight hours, GA-ASI provides long-endurance, mission-capable aircraft with integrated sensor and data link systems required to deliver persistent flight that enables situational awareness and rapid strike.