General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) is highlighting the capabilities of the MQ-9B SeaGuardian Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) at the ongoing Dubai Air Show.
A ground-up redesign of earlier variants, the MQ-9B – the SeaGuardian and the land-based SkyGuardian – are multi-mission aircraft and designed to operate in unsegregated airspace. The nine external hardpoints of the RPA enable the MQ-9B to be used for a wide variety of critical missions, including environmental protection, maritime domain awareness, search and rescue, as well as military surveillance patrol. According to company officials, the RPA has evoked plenty of interest among nations in the Middle East, Asia and other regions.
India is currently in discussions for the purchase of the MQ-9B SeaGuardian. The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) has also expressed an interest in the RPA and has sent a Request for Information (RFI) to GA-ASI.
In the basic configuration, the SeaGuardian is equipped with a high-definition Electro-optical/Infrared (EO/IR) sensor and a high-performance 360° multi-mode maritime radar to support maritime patrol and surveillance missions. In addition to exceptional endurance of more than 35 hours, SeaGuardian offers ISR capabilities for a wide range of operational and threat environments. Capable of operating at Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) ranges at altitudes over 40,000 feet and in inclement weather conditions, the SeaGuardian, which has SATCOM Auto Take-off and Landing Capability (ATLC), can provide EO/IR Full Motion Video (FMV), Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery, and Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) data about potential threats to military commanders in real-time from stand-off ranges without harm to the aircrew.
The platform can also be equipped with a multi-mode maritime search radar, an Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar (ISAR) capability, and an Automatic Identification System (AIS) detection capability. The aircraft also has anti-ice, de-ice and lightening protection capabilities to minimize lost sorties due to tropical weather.
According to GA-ASI officials, the SeaGuardian presents a far more cost-effective solution for nations as its operating and support costs are a fraction of that of a manned maritime patrol aircraft (MPA). The RPA can also be used to complement a manned MPA, and will undertake the dull, dirty and dangerous roles, keeping aircrew away from risk, while the MPA is retained for focused tasks. Enhancing its appeal is the act that the SeaGuardian also has the ability to seamlessly share information with other platforms, including the MPA.
The SkyGuardian will be delivered to UK Royal Air Force (RAF) as the Protector RG Mk1 in the early 2020s. The Government of Belgium has approved Belgian Defense to negotiate the acquisition of SkyGuardian to meet the nation’s RPA requirements. The aircraft is also being considered by the Australian Defence Force, which has selected GA-ASI to supply an RPA system for Project Air 7003.
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