Leonardo has entered a cooperation agreement with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) to integrate the SAGE electronic warfare surveillance system on-board the MQ-9B remotely piloted aircraft (RPA).
The SAGE system is set to be delivered on an off-the-shelf basis and will be integrated into the airframe of both the MQ-9B Sea Guardian and Sky Guardian configurations for the benefit of navy and airforce customers respectively.
The inclusion of the sensor will eliminate the need for external pods, which is expected to improve the RPA’s performance, while maximising space for the installation of other weapons or sensors as the system will not occupy any under-wing hardpoints.
In addition, the system will help reduce the MQ-9B’s platform mass by removing the pod usually required for the electronic support measure (ESM) capability, which is slated to optimise the endurance of the aircraft.
Integration work on the aircraft has already commenced and the SAGE-equipped MQ-9B RPA is expected to be available for order as soon as next year.
SAGE is a digital electronic intelligence (ELINT) sensor equipped with a built-in 360° radar-warning-receiver (RWR) capability.
The sensor can be used to detect, identify and geo-locate radio frequency (RF) signals such as radar fire-control systems.
It is also able to inform operators about any potential threats to the aircraft.
Furthermore, the surveillance system can help identify the location and parametric data of specific RF emitters from a single platform, thereby improving the tactical electronic intelligence picture and overall situational awareness.
Leonardo’s SAGE electronic warfare sensor system is currently in service with the South Korean Navy, Brazilian Navy and Indonesian Air Force.
The MQ-9B is a highly modular unmanned aircraft that can be easily configured with a wide range of payloads in order to address specific mission requirements.