According to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, the MQ-9B SeaGuardian medium altitude, long endurance remotely piloted aircraft delivers maritime domain awareness on the surface and below it, via its ability to deploy and monitor sonobouys.
We successfully demonstrated ‘A’ size sonobuoy carriage, release, process and control from a company-owned MQ-9.
General Atomics first announced the milestone in a January 2021 press release, while the demonstration test actually took place on 24 November 2020. But the company just released the video.
For the record, Sonobuoys are manufactured in several sizes (A, B, C, F, G sizes to name a few) Size A sonobuoys have dimensions of 4.75” x 36”, whereas size B sonobuoys have dimensions of 6.875” x 60”. All U.S.-manufactured sonobuoys, except the MK-84, are A-size (approx. 4 7/8 in. X 36 in.). Some countries have moved to half-size, or A/2, as a preferred configuration.
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 U.S. 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 (4) 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.
No information has been released about the sonobuoy pod, but it likely comes from L3Harris, which has been working on such as pod for a number of years now. Building on its single-launch and rotary multi-launch systems for the P-8A Poseidon, L3Harris developed a sonobuoy pod specifically for UAVs. Here is our coverage of this product during the Pacific 2019 show in Australia:
About General Atomics MQ-9B SeaGuardian
General Atomics has developed the maritime variant of MQ-9B, SeaGuardian, to perform over-the-horizon long-endurance, medium-altitude Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions.
Thanks to its internal and external payload, SeaGuardian can be configured for a vast range of naval and littoral surveillance operations, including:
- Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW)
- Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW)
- Search and Rescue (SAR)
- Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR)
- Borders surveillance and Law Enforcement
With its full range of sensors, its high endurance (more than 25 hours on station) and its low operating costs, the SeaGuardian is marketed by GA-ASI as a complementary system for navies and air forces already operating maritime patrol aircraft. The RPAS could also seduce air forces currently developing their maritime surveillance capability from scratch. With a highly modular payload and a multi-mode EO/IR system, the SeaGuardian is also able to operate most of the ISR missions of the SkyGuardian. SeaGuardian is therefore suited to operate over the open ocean as well as in a littoral environment. A capability that is rapidly convincing many air forces and navies around the world.
For ASW missions, the SeaGuardian can carry two to four sonobuoys dispensers under its wings. The aircraft carrying a sonobuoy receiver and processor internally. According to GA-ASI, the SeaGuardian could be equipped with airborne counter mine capability in the near future, expanding the range of its missions.
In November 2020, the United States’ State Department approved possible foreign military sales of MQ-9Bs with anti-submarine warfare mission kits to the United Arab Emirates and Taiwan. Japan is also looking at this capability.