Tag Archives: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems

Reapers to Poland

As part of a lease agreement, Poland will take delivery of MQ-9A Reaper Remotely Piloted Aircraft from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI). The new agreement between GA-ASI and the Polish Ministry of Defence has a net value of $70.6 million.

MQ-9A Reaper
World-Leading RPA Capabilities Will Fortify Poland’s National Defense and Security

«GA-ASI’s support for Poland and the NATO alliance is steadfast as they confront the ongoing war in the region», said GA-ASI CEO Linden Blue. «We look forward to delivering our proven MQ-9A platform system to Poland to enhance the nation’s ability to conduct persistent airborne ISR and support its Defense Forces».

MQ-9A Reapers are operated by the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain. GA-ASI’s newer MQ-9B variant has been acquired by the UK and Belgium. The MQ-9B maritime surveillance configuration (SeaGuardian) recently began operations in support of the Japan Coast Guard.

MQ-9A Reaper has endurance of over 27 hours, speeds of 240 KTAS/276 mph/444.5 km/h and can operate up to 50,000 feet/15 240 m. It has a 3,850-pound (1,746-kilogram) payload capacity that includes 3,000 pounds (1,361 kilograms) of external stores. It provides a long-endurance, persistent surveillance capability with Full-Motion Video and Synthetic Aperture Radar/Moving Target Indicator/Maritime Radar. An extremely reliable aircraft, MQ-9A Block 5 is equipped with a fault-tolerant flight control system and triple redundant avionics system architecture. It is engineered to meet and exceed manned aircraft reliability standards.

Laser Communication

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) successfully completed an air-to-air laser communication link between GA-ASI’s Laser Airborne Communication (LAC) terminals integrated onto two company-owned King Air aircraft. Laser communication is desirable for military applications because of its Low Probability of Intercept/Low Probability of Detection (LPI/LPD) and anti-jam capability that can support much higher data rates than radio frequency systems.

Laser Airborne Communication
GA-ASI Demonstrates Air-to-Air Laser Communications

«This air-to-air demonstration was a major success and marks a critical milestone for GA-ASI’s Lasercom development team», said GA-ASI Vice President of Mission Payloads & Exploitation, Satish Krishnan. «The success of this flight will pave the way for more opportunities to demonstrate crosslinks from aircraft to other platforms, including unmanned aircraft, maritime vessels, and space systems».

The aircraft flew out of Montgomery Field in Kearney Mesa, California on September 26, 2022, and performed the test in segregated airspace near Yuma, Arizona During the flight test, the team maintained a link at 1.0 Gigabits per second (Gbps) and exchanged data, including real-time navigation, video, and voice data.

GA-ASI has developed a family of optical communication capabilities and will play an important role in transitioning these capabilities to users in a variety of domains, from air to sea. GA-ASI expects that laser communications will enable Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) produced by the company to perform beyond-line-of-sight communications for airborne, maritime, and ground users who also use optical communications, as well as with future air-to-space optical communication applications. This capability can be applied as a podded solution to GA-ASI’s full line of unmanned aircraft, including MQ-9B SkyGuardian/SeaGuardian, MQ-9A Reaper and MQ-1C Gray Eagle 25M.

Gray Eagle

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) has launched its latest variant of the Gray Eagle line of Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Gray Eagle 25M. The GE-25M brings a Modular Open Systems Approach (MOSA) to the Multi-Domain Operations (MDO)-capable system to ensure incremental enhancements can be made at the speed of emerging threats.

Gray Eagle 25M
GE-25M Will Provide Critical Capabilities that Enable Multi-Domain Operations

The «M» in 25M stands for Modernized and incorporates open architecture aircraft and ground systems, advanced datalinks, and an upgraded propulsion system, significantly enhancing the ability to add new capabilities, provide resilience to electronic threats, and deliver expeditionary employment to austere locations.

«GE-25M incorporates MOSA across the aircraft and ground system architectures, which enables rapid integration of advanced payloads and communication equipment, along with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML) capabilities», said GA-ASI Vice President of Army Programs Don Cattell. «This will reduce the sensor-to-shooter timelines, while simultaneously reducing the datalink bandwidth requirements in a contested environment, thus increasing range and resiliency».

The onboard ‘edge processing’ capability will maximize the utility of the Medium-Altitude, Long-Endurance aircraft providing, in near real time, threat Detection, Identification, Location and Reporting (DILR) to the U.S. Army and Joint Force. Furthermore, the software components are being designed to be portable to other manned and unmanned aircraft systems the U.S. Army is developing, enhancing capability while reducing cost.

Multi-Intelligence sensors on the new UAS deliver actionable information, providing commanders with reach, overmatch, and combat options. GE-25M provides advanced teaming with Future Vertical Lift (FVL), Air-Launched Effects (ALE), and joint assets for Stand-Off Survivability with Stand-In Capability, facilitating convergence among cross-domain fires.

The new platform provides critical Reconnaissance, Surveillance, Target Acquisition (RSTA) capability to Division Commanders, and acts as a quarterback providing a persistent, key communication node in the aerial tier network.

Earlier this year, factory upgrades began on two U.S. Army Gray Eagle Extended Range UAS which will become the first 25M variants. These 25M aircraft are scheduled for flight test and qualification beginning in 2023. The GE-25M comes packaged with a next-generation SAR with long range sensing and navigation capability, and a menu of advanced sensors and payloads mission-tailorable options. The GE-25M is controlled from a laptop-based MOSA ground station, reducing material footprint while dramatically improving transportability, as well as enabling expeditionary operations.

Completely Autonomous

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) used a company-owned Avenger MQ-20A Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) to fly a military aircraft using an Artificially Intelligent (AI) pilot deployed on an operationally relevant, Open Mission Systems (OMS) software stack on September 12, 2022.

MQ-20A Avenger
GA-ASI Flies Completely Autonomous UAS Flight Using Avenger MQ-20A

The Avenger’s completely autonomous flight used an AI pilot for close to 30 minutes as a part of a cooperating live, virtual, and constructive UAS swarm. The flight was performed as part of GA-ASI’s ongoing commitment and investment into the development of advanced autonomy of AI and Machine Learning (ML) for UAS.

The flight made use of GA-ASI’s novel Reinforcement Learning (RL) architecture to develop and validate an RL agent in an operationally relevant environment. RL agents provide a new and innovative tool for next-generation military platforms to make decisions under dynamic and uncertain real-world conditions. The team flew “chase and avoid behavior” where real-time updates were made to the flight path in order to avoid adversaries using live fused tracks. Live tracks were provided to the system using the Infrared Search and Track (IRST) sensor network that was supplied by Lockheed Martin.

«The flight was a tremendous success and demonstrated a number of groundbreaking capabilities in the race to operationalize autonomy for Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA)», said GA-ASI Senior Director of Advanced Programs Michael Atwood. «It’s exciting to see how AI can be used to advance how and where we fly unmanned systems as the complexity of the battlespace increases. Our ‘chase and avoid’ agent’s ability to dynamically update the flight path as threats were identified is the first step towards building an ecosystem of collaborative autonomous combat aircraft».

TacIRST is a new class of multifunction, embeddable sensor system with an open architecture. It was developed by Lockheed Martin to provide a range of capabilities for both crewed and uncrewed aircraft. «We anticipated the need for passive, long-range threat detection by autonomous aircraft and are proud to see this capability integrated successfully on the Avenger», said Terry Hoehn, Director of Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Threat Warning Systems. «We look forward to further collaboration and testing with GA-ASI».

The team used a government-furnished CODE autonomy engine and the government-standard OMS messaging protocol to enable communication between the RL agent and the Tactical IRST. By utilizing government standards, such as CODE and OMS, rapid integration of autonomy for collaborative combat aircraft becomes possible.

General Dynamics Mission Systems also supplied key technologies to the flight. The mission computer used to host the OMS software is part of the Digital Backbone Node (DBN) family of systems from General Dynamics Mission Systems. The DBN architecture enables rapid and secure deployment of evolving capabilities needed for CCA through application of the latest government open architectures, high-performance computing, advanced cooling, and a high-speed backplane with multi-level security to maximize battlefield collaboration between platforms.

This flight was another in an ongoing series of autonomous flights performed by GA-ASI using internal research and development funding to prove out important AI/ML concepts for advanced UAS.

MQ-9A Extended Range

The Navy recently awarded a $135.8 million contract to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) for eight MQ-9A Extended Range (ER) Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) that are scheduled for delivery to the Marine Corps in late 2023.

MQ-9A ER
The MQ-9 Reaper provides Marines with a long-range intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capability in support of expeditionary advanced based operations, littoral operations in contested environments, and maritime domain awareness (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

MQ-9A ER will provide a large scale, long-range intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability for the Marine Expeditionary Force. It is designed to extend the aircraft’s endurance to more than 30 hours and equipped with triple redundant avionics architecture.

As part of the Marine Corps Force Design 2030 efforts, the Marines plan to transition Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron (VMU) 3 located at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii to MQ-9A operations. VMU-3 will utilize the MQ-9A ERs to support training for the Marine Littoral Regiment.

The Multi-Mission Tactical UAS program office (PMA-266), who manages the Marines MQ-9 program, used the Air Force’s Agile Reaper Enterprise Solution (ARES) to award the contract. ARES is a five-year fixed Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (ID/IQ) contract.

«Our team has ensured the development and fielding of a new combat capability, critical for the Marine Corps Force Design (FD) 2030 vision, at an exceptional speed», said Captain Dennis Monagle, PMA-266 program manager.

Since the program’s inception in 2018, PMA-266 has leveraged Air Force investments and contracting solutions to procure MQ-9, ultimately accelerating the fielding time. By tailoring and streamlining the typical acquisition strategy, the MQ-9 program commenced post-Milestone C, eliminating three to five years of traditional acquisition efforts.

«We closely aligned with the USAF MQ-9 System Program Office (SPO), National Guard Bureau, Marine Corps stakeholders, as well as our vendor teams in order to develop and integrate as quickly as possible», Monagle said.

The first two MQ-9 aircraft were delivered in 2019 to Marine Unmanned Air Vehicle Squadron (VMU) 1 and since then have flown over 15,000 operational flight hours. The program continues to develop new, unique payloads and capabilities to meet future requirements for FD 2030. These payloads include the Detect and Avoid System (DAAS), a Proliferated Low Earth Orbit (PLEO) satellite system, an airborne network extension payload (Sky Tower), and an electronic warfare payload.

The MQ-9A and associated payloads will provide the Marines with organic network extension and Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and Targeting (ISR-T) in support of expeditionary advanced based operations, littoral operations in contested environments, and maritime domain awareness.

Maritime Radar onto MQ-9

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) has integrated the Leonardo Seaspray 7500E V2 multi-mode radar onto an MQ-9A Block 5 Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) and performed its first test flight on April 14, 2021. The maritime-focused radar is also being fitted for the MQ-9B SeaGuardian RPA.

MQ-9B SeaGuardian RPA
GA-ASI Integrates Leonardo Seaspray V2 Maritime Radar onto MQ-9

«The benefits of this Maritime Patrol Radar (MPR) in the complex littoral and maritime Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) environment will add world-class situational awareness for our RPA», said GA-ASI Vice President of International Strategic Development Robert Schoeffling.

Designed and manufactured in Edinburgh, UK, the Leonardo 7500E V2 radar is the latest variant of the highly successful Seaspray Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar family, featuring updated processor and receiver technology to meet the evolving demands of the ISR mission set. The 7500E V2 is the largest and most capable Seaspray AESA radar and enhances the operationally proven 7500E.

The Seaspray greatly enhances the capabilities of GA-ASI RPA and builds on the already close working partnership between GA-ASI and Leonardo.

Tony Innes, VP Sales, Radar and Advanced Targeting at Leonardo said, «GA-ASI are an important partner and I’m delighted to see our joint projects generating interest in the market. Seaspray’s long-range, wide-area maritime and ground surveillance capability makes it an ideal fit for the MQ-9A and MQ-9B. The V2 offers significant range increases for certain critical modes, improved maritime detection and the ability to handle a high number of targets, while improving on its already-capable over-land mode suite».

Japan RPAS Project

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), the global leader in Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), is pleased to be selected to support the Japan Coast Guard’s (JCG) RPAS Project. Operations will feature GA-ASI’s MQ-9B SeaGuardian and begin in October 2022.

MQ-9B SeaGuardian
GA-ASI Selected for Japan Coast Guard RPAS Project

SeaGuardian will be used to conduct wide-area maritime surveillance to support JCG’s missions, which include search and rescue, disaster response, and maritime law enforcement. This project follows a series of successful JCG flight trials in 2020 that used SeaGuardian to validate the same JCG missions in accordance with Japan’s «Policy on Strengthening the Maritime Security Systems», using unmanned aerial vehicles to perform maritime wide-area surveillance.

«We’re proud to support the JCG’s maritime surveillance mission with our SeaGuardian UAS», said Linden Blue, CEO of GA-ASI. «The system’s ability to provide affordable, extremely long-endurance airborne surveillance with long-range sensors in the maritime domain is unprecedented».

SeaGuardian features a multi-mode maritime surface-search radar with an Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar (ISAR) imaging mode, an Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver, and High-Definition – Full-Motion Video sensor equipped with optical and infrared cameras. This sensor suite enables real-time detection and identification of surface vessels over thousands of square nautical miles and provides automatic tracking of maritime targets and correlation of AIS transmitters with radar tracks.

SkyGuardian and SeaGuardian are revolutionizing the long-endurance RPAS market by providing all-weather capability and full compliance with STANAG-4671 (NATO UAS airworthiness standard). This feature, along with our operationally proven, collision-avoidance radar, enables flexible operations in civil airspace.

Future Fights

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) is pleased to announce its new category of future-forward Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), focused on information dominance and airspace supremacy. Leveraging three decades of experience across millions of successful combat flight hours, the new Evolution line of advanced UAS joins GA-ASI’s existing Predator-class and Mojave-class aircraft in delivering next-generation UAS that lead the pack in advanced, affordable, attritable and autonomous combat power.

Evolution
GA-ASI Announces Evolution Class of UAS for the Future Fights of Tomorrow

The name Evolution refers to the evolutionary path GA-ASI has followed as it chartered the realm of unmanned aircraft through its rich, 30-year history of UAS innovation, designing for the future, and the force-multiplying power UAS provide modern warfighters. In the past three decades, GA-ASI has launched more than 25 UAS variants, beginning with the Gnat in 1992.

Evolution establishes a third aircraft class within GA-ASI, joining the well-known Predator line and recently announced Mojave line of expeditionary UAS featuring Short-TakeOff and Landing (STOL) capability. Evolution includes the development of GA-ASI’s next-generation UAS solutions designed to meet the needs of the U.S. Air Force’s vision for its future force, as well as new UAS concepts such as Defender, Sparrowhawk and the recently announced Gambit.

«We’re continuing to grow and respond to the rapidly changing world», said GA-ASI President David R. Alexander. «As we celebrate our 30-year anniversary as a company, our new Evolution-series aircraft will merge our unique heritage of advanced and affordable UAS technologies with innovative technologies for the future. We’re looking ahead to new concepts and never-before-seen aircraft that meet the needs of our customers today and tomorrow».

Mojave

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) is unveiling a new Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) called Mojave, named for one of the harshest and most austere areas the world, where deadly rattlesnakes and horned lizards adapt to survive the extreme forces of nature.

Mojave
Next Step in UAS Capability Evolution Includes STOL and Unmatched Payload Capacity

Mojave is based on the avionics and flight control systems of MQ-9 Reaper and MQ-1C Gray Eagle-ER but is focused on Short-TakeOff and Landing (STOL) capabilities and increased firepower. It features enlarged wings with high-lift devices, and a 450-HP/336 kW turboprop engine.

Mojave provides options for forward-basing operations without the need for typical airport runways or infrastructure. It can land and takeoff from unimproved surfaces while also retaining significant advantages in endurance and persistence over manned aircraft. These innovations make Mojave the perfect UAS to perform armed overwatch, attack and armed reconnaissance missions.

A prototype aircraft first flew this summer and is continuing to demonstrate exceptional short-field performance and other unique qualities.

«We’re proud to bring these extraordinary capabilities to our Predator line of UAS», said GA-ASI CEO Linden Blue. «We are providing the ground force with a long-endurance, armed overwatch UAS that can quickly reload weapons at austere sites, located close to the conflict zone. This revolutionary design, based on 7 million flight hours of UAS experience, increases expeditionary employment options – making Mojave a real game changer».

GA-ASI’s history in UAS technology is second to none and is continually pushing technologies to adapt to emerging threats. Predator-series UAS have evolved since their support of the U.S. war effort following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 to become not only a critical provider of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), but also provide kinetic and non-kinetic capabilities to neutralize threats and achieve overmatch.

The Mojave project brings together all the best of the proven technologies for employment, sustainment and production and capability to achieve industry-leading reliability, range and endurance. STOL capability increases the number of employment options available to Mojave, potentially including aircraft carrier-based options, unlocking naval missions or sea-based support for special operations forces.

Payload capacity is 3,600 lb. (1,633 kg) and Mojave can carry up to 16 Hellfire or equivalent missiles. Mojave can be equipped with a sensor suite including Electro-Optical/InfraRed (EO/IR), Synthetic Aperture Radar/Ground Moving Target Indicator (SAR/GMTI) and Signal Intelligence (SIGINT) to support land or maritime missions.

Off-Board Sensing Station

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) received a $17.8 million award from the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to design and develop an unmanned Off-Board Sensing Station (OBSS) aircraft. AFRL is developing an open architecture concept Autonomous Collaborative Platform (ACP) to achieve its goals of rapid time-to-market and low acquisition cost, while extending and enhancing the sensing volume of manned platforms.

Off-Board Sensing Station (OBSS)
GA-ASI Awarded OBSS Contract from AFRL

«We’re excited to continue working on this project with AFRL», said Chris Seat, senior vice president of Special Programs for GA-ASI. «Our experience in developing and delivering the most cost-effective and forward-looking UAS solutions puts GA-ASI in a great position to deliver the right ACP to meet our customer’s requirements».

The award covers the next 12 months as the base effort, and if the option is exercised, GA-ASI will spend the following 15 months manufacturing and flight demonstrating the aircraft with the award potentially growing to a total of $49 million.