General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) has used an MQ-9 Predator B remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) to demonstrate the remote detection and tracking of submerged contacts such as submarines during a US naval exercise.

The company participated in the demonstration of new maritime patrol capabilities that included anti-submarine warfare (ASW).

US Navy helicopters deployed a series of sonobuoys during the exercise, which were used to gather acoustic data to assist in the tracking of underwater targets.

The data was then transmitted to the MQ-9 RPA and processed on-board before being relayed to the aircraft’s ground control station (GCS) located several hundred miles away from the target area.

“The technology is expected to offer long-range patrol and relay capabilities to the MQ-9 aircraft to facilitate an increase in maritime mission sets.”

This helped pair the Ultra Electronics-supplied sonobuoy receiver and the data processing technology, delivered by General Dynamics Mission Systems Canada, on-board the MQ-9.

A track solution was also calculated and transmitted from the aircraft to the GCS via satellite communications (SATCOM).

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The technology is expected to offer long-range patrol and relay capabilities to the MQ-9 aircraft to facilitate an increase in maritime mission sets.

GA-ASI CEO Linden Blue said: “This test demonstrated the ability of our RPA to detect submarines and provide persistent tracking of submerged targets.”

In addition, the aircraft was integrated with the company’s Lynx multi-mode radar, which featured its maritime wide-area search (MWAS) mode used to detect maritime surface targets over a wide area with inverse synthetic aperture radar (ISAR) for target classification.

The MQ-9 is also equipped with an electro-optical / infrared (EO / IR), high-definition full-motion video (FMV) camera that supports the identification of surface vessels.

The sensor contacts are correlated with the automatic identification system (AIS) to verify target identity.

Furthermore, the aircraft can be installed with a centreline pod that is able to mount a longer-range, 360° field-of-regard maritime surface search radar for increased surveillance capability over water.