In a development within maritime surveillance and security, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) and the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) have successfully tested the Sonobuoy Dispensing System (SDS) onboard the MQ-9B SeaGuardian unmanned aircraft system (UAS).

The test was conducted on February 27, 2024, at the US Navy’s W-291 test range in Southern California.

Equipped with the SDS pod and Raytheon’s SeaVue multi-role radar, the SeaGuardian executed a test flight, deploying eight AN/SSQ-53 and two AN/SSQ-62 sonobuoys. These sonobuoys, important for detecting underwater threats, were monitored by the SeaGuardian’s onboard Sonobuoy Monitoring and Control System (SMCS), validating the system’s effectiveness in real-world scenarios.

David R. Alexander, president of GA-ASI, hailed the demonstration as a success, emphasising the SDS’s role in enhancing anti-submarine warfare capabilities. “This was a very successful demonstration of our SDS capability,” said Alexander. “The demonstration helped us prove out the SDS, which is an important component for our Anti-Submarine Warfare capability.”

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Under a NAVAIR Interim Flight Clearance, the SeaGuardian showcased its multi-domain capabilities. Developed in collaboration with AEREA in Italy, the SDS pod features an advanced pneumatic ejection system.

GA-ASI has entered into two collaborations to enhance the capabilities of its unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Firstly, GA-ASI and EDGE, the UAE-based technology group, have partnered to integrate UAE-made smart weapons onto GA-ASI’s MQ-9B SkyGuardian. 

Secondly, GA-ASI’s MQ-9B SeaGuardian RPAS has been equipped with Leonardo’s Seaspray radar, enabling persistent maritime intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR). This integration enhances the MQ-9 B’s ability to detect tough surface targets in challenging sea environments. 

The MQ-9B SeaGuardian, known for its medium-altitude, long-endurance capabilities, continues to play a role in maritime security, from its deployment by the US in recent demonstrations such as Northern Edge and Integrated Battle Problem to its current operations with the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF).

GA-ASI recently celebrated the delivery of the first new-build MQ-9A Extended Range Unmanned Aircraft System to the US Marine Corps (USMC) as part of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force Unmanned Expeditionary (MUX) Program. Concurrently, GA-ASI secured a $250m contract to supply MQ-9B SkyGuardian drones to Taiwan, facilitated by the US Air Force.