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.
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.
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.
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».
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 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.
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.
«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.
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has exercised the clause in its contract with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc (GA-ASI) to manufacture and deliver 13 additional Protector RG Mk1 Remotely Piloted Air Systems (RPAS) that had previously been identified as options. The initial contract order was for three Protector RPAS, establishing 16 as the new total of Protectors to be delivered to the UK MoD.
«Our fleet of 16 Protector aircraft equipped with ultra-modern technology will provide the Royal Air Force (RAF) with a vast global reach allowing us to monitor and protect the battlespace for hours on end. The Protector programme involves industry across the UK with vital parts of the aircraft manufactured on the Isle of Wight, supporting highly-skilled jobs for years to come», said Jeremy Quin, UK Minister for Defense Procurement.
GA-ASI’s MQ-9B SkyGuardian is the baseline system being configured for the RAF as the Protector RG Mk1. It includes X-band satellite communications (SATCOM) and support for UK weapon systems, as well as the aircraft’s onboard sensors such as its electro-optical sensor ball and Lynx Multi-mode Radar.
«This commitment for 13 additional unmanned aircraft confirms the long-term confidence of the UK MoD and the Royal Air Force in the MQ-9B system and the Protector program», said Linden Blue, CEO, GA-ASI. «The MQ-9B system will bring unparalleled reconnaissance capability to the RAF and help to ensure the security of the UK and its allies».
In July 2020, the UK MoD and GA-ASI announced a production contract for the first three Protector RPAS. In September 2020, GA-ASI announced the completion of the first Protector-configured MQ-9B, which is now supporting system testing as part of a combined UK MoD, U.S. Air Force and GA-ASI test team. Known as UK1, this first Protector will be delivered to the MoD later this year, but will remain in the U.S. to complete the Royal Air Force’s test and evaluation program before moving to its UK home base in 2022.
«The contract for the additional 13 Protector aircraft, taking the total to 16, is a major milestone for the UK. When Protector enters service in 2024, UK Defence will take an enormous jump forward in capability, giving us the ability to operate globally with this cutting edge, highly adaptable platform», said Air Commodore Richard Barrow, Senior Responsible Owner for the RAF Protector Programme.
The partnership between GA-ASI and the UK MoD also brings significant benefits to UK aerospace and defense industries. One example is GKN Aerospace, which is manufacturing the advanced composite V-tails for the MQ-9B at its centre of excellence in Cowes, the Isle of Wight.
GA-ASI’s development of MQ-9B began in 2014 as a company-funded program to deliver an RPA that meets the stringent NATO STANAG-4671 and UK DEFSTAN 00-970 aircraft system airworthiness requirements. These provide the basis for type certification by NATO member-state military airworthiness authorities. The MQ-9B is designed to accommodate the GA-ASI-developed Detect and Avoid System (DAAS), which helps the aircraft integrate with the normal flow of aviation traffic and keeps operators in contact with air traffic control. The aircraft is built for adverse weather performance with lightning protection, damage tolerance, and a de-icing system. MQ-9B features rapid integration of new payloads with nine hard points. The aircraft can self-deploy using SATCOM-enabled Automatic Takeoff and Landing, which eliminates forward-based launch-and-recovery equipment and personnel. In addition to the Protector and SkyGuardian configurations, MQ-9B is available as the SeaGuardian – with revolutionary anti-submarine and surface search capabilities – for maritime missions.
MQ-9B has garnered significant interest from customers throughout the world. In addition to the UK, SkyGuardian has been selected by the Australian Defence Force under Project Air 7003 and the Belgian Ministry of Defense signed a contract for SkyGuardian.
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) is working with Leonardo to integrate the Leonardo Seaspray 7500E V2 radar into the centerline radar pod of its MQ-9B SeaGuardian Remotely-Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS). The integration of this market-leading radar onto the SeaGuardian will enable persistent maritime ISR and is available to our international customer base.
GA-ASI’s MQ-9B is revolutionizing the long-endurance RPAS market by providing all-weather capability and compliance with STANAG-4671 (NATO airworthiness standard for Unmanned Aircraft Systems). These features, along with an operationally proven collision-avoidance radar, enables flexible operations in civil airspace. SeaGuardian has a multi-mode maritime surface-search radar with Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar (ISAR) imaging mode, an Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver, and a High-Definition – Full-Motion Video sensor equipped with optical and infrared cameras. This sensor suite, augmented by automatic track correlation and anomaly-detection algorithms, enables real-time detection and identification of surface vessels over thousands of square nautical miles.
The Seaspray 7500E V2 radar is well-suited to the SeaGuardian mission set, using Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) technology to detect, track and classify hundreds of maritime contacts. The integration will also include an Open Mission Systems (OMS) approach, which enables the SeaGuardian and its sensor suite to offer operational and sustainment flexibility to end users.
Numerous countries use Leonardo Seaspray E-scan radars and the company has utilized operational feedback from these customers to expand and optimize the radar’s suite of advanced modes. These include Leonardo’s patented small target detection capability, allowing it to spot extremely difficult targets such as submarine periscopes and shipwrecked individuals at long range, even in very stormy seas. A key discriminator of Leonardo’s E-scan radars is their high reliability and fault tolerance that allows effective operation throughout a mission even if a number of individual radar modules fail.
The Seaspray greatly enhances the capabilities of the MQ-9B and builds on the already close working partnership between GA-ASI and Leonardo. Earlier this year GA-ASI announced the completion of initial integration work of Leonardo’s SAGE electronic surveillance unit onto the SeaGuardian, equipping the aircraft with the ability to gather intelligence information on maritime and land-based radar emitters over a wide area.
Customers will be able to choose from a wide assortment of sensors and payloads on the SeaGuardian platform, with both Seaspray and SAGE as off-the-shelf sensor options.
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) recently completed Full Scale Static (FSS) testing on the MQ-9B Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) wing after three months of extensive testing. MQ-9B includes SkyGuardian and SeaGuardian RPA produced by GA-ASI.
The testing included multiple load cases to 150 percent of expected maximum flight loads. The wing was loaded using specially designed fixtures to apply a distributed load across the wingspan – simulating gust and maneuver flight conditions – with no failures.
«Successful completion of FSS testing on the MQ-9B wing was a critical step in proving that our design meets stringent certification standards for structural strength and integrity», said Dee Wilson, Vice President, Engineering Research Development & Design Hardware. «The wing performed as expected, matching analytical predictions closely. Our engineering design, stress and test teams are commended for an exceptional effort in meeting this critical milestone».
This particular wing design is the culmination of a large development effort from multiple areas within GA-ASI and represents a major milestone in qualifying the MQ-9B SkyGuardian and SeaGuardian RPA to fly in non-segregated airspace. The wing test success also establishes the baseline wing design for the entire MQ-9B product line. This is critical as GA-ASI starts deliveries to the multiple customers pursuing the MQ-9B including the United Kingdom, Belgium and Australia.
On October 28, 2020, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) conducted an autonomous flight using a government-supplied Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment (CODE) autonomy engine to support air-to-air targeting missions. The CODE autonomy engine was installed on a GA-ASI Avenger Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS).
The CODE autonomy engine was implemented to further understand cognitive Artificial Intelligence (AI) processing on larger UAS platforms, such as Avenger. Using a network- enabled Tactical Targeting Network Technology (TTNT) radio for mesh network mission communications, GA-ASI was able to show integration of emerging Advanced Tactical Data Links (ATDL) and separation between flight and mission critical systems.
«This represents a big step on the path to more sophisticated autonomous missions for unmanned aircraft where operator input can be minimized to support optimal manning of multiple products for complex air battles», said GA-ASI President David R. Alexander. «For this initial flight, we used Avenger as the flight surrogate for the Skyborg capability set, which is a key focus for GA-ASI emerging air-to-air portfolio».
As part of the autonomous flight, the CODE autonomy software controlled the maneuvering of the Avenger UAS for over two hours without traditional pilot input. GA-ASI furthered the development of the CODE software by adding behavioral functions for a coordinated air-to-air search with up to six aircraft (for the demonstration, five of the aircraft were virtual). The CODE operator, using a small form factor commercial computer running the government-provided software, set mission objectives for the flight in which the autonomy software was used to coordinate the six aircraft to accomplish the air-to-air search objective.
GA-ASI created ground and air adapter services that passed operator mission inputs to the flying constellation of aircraft using Link 16-formatted messages that followed Joint Range Extension Applications Protocol (JREAP). The open architecture of the CODE software enables communications between the aircraft, the CODE software and the autopilot.
In conjunction with the Air National Guard (ANG), the Air Force Reserve Command Test Center (AATC) and Ultra Electronics, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI) successfully completed initial operational assessment of the Rosetta Echo Advanced Payloads (REAP) pod on an MQ-9 Reaper Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA). The first REAP flight test (known as REAP-1), held August 3 and based out of Syracuse, New York, demonstrated a communications relay network providing seamless connectivity between air and ground participants in the demonstration area. Specific waveforms supported by the REAP pod include Link 16, Ultra High Frequency/Very High Frequency (UHF/VHF) radio and P25 public safety, as well as mobile ad hoc networks (MANET).
«GA-ASI is really excited to showcase the communication capabilities of the REAP pod, which provides the backbone for warfighters to collaborate and share critical battlefield situational awareness. Our MQ-9 Reaper, with its industry-leading persistent endurance, is the ideal platform for connecting sensors to shooters and realizing USAF’s Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) vision», said GA-ASI President David R. Alexander.
According to the ANG/AATC, a REAP-equipped MQ-9 Reaper relayed video received from a Coyote small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS) to a ground node at distances over 110 miles / 177 km. All this was done while simultaneously bridging voice communications over the MANET at extended distances.
Major Curt Wilson, National Guard Bureau (NGB) A5 Branch Chief for Special Mission Aircraft, said: «REAP far exceeded our expectations for a first flight and initial operational assessment. The REAP pod is the first step in a number of innovations that the NGB, Ultra and GA-ASI have pioneered to demonstrate near-term and affordable Joint All-Domain Command & Control (JADC2) capabilities on the MQ-9 Reaper».
The ANG and AATC are working to schedule another flight test in late 2020 with the REAP pod installed on the MQ-9 Reaper. A REAP-2 pod, due for completion in mid-2021, encompasses all of the REAP-1 capability plus 4G/LTE, the addition of which will add disaster relief operations as a capability to its existing military waveform relay and bridging capability. REAP-2 will be integrated into AFRL’s (Air Force Research Laboratory) open architecture AgilePod16 variant, demonstrating GA-ASI’s continued commitment to widely adopting and proliferating Open Mission Systems (OMS) and open architecture. REAP was also featured as part of the second Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) Demo that took place September 1-3, 2020.
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) conducted captive carry Sparrowhawk Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) flight demonstrations on September 16-17, 2020. The Sparrowhawk aircraft is designed as an airborne launch and recovery demonstrator aircraft tailored to fit GA-ASI platforms, and is focused on Advanced Battle Management System’s attritableONE technologies. Sparrowhawk iterates on the DARPA Gremlins Program to further airborne recovery of sUAS, reducing the cost of operation and enabling new mission capabilities to GA-ASI’s MQ-9 Remotely Piloted Aircraft.
«Sparrowhawk extends and multiplies MQ-9-based sensors, reduces manpower and increases ISR coverage», said GA-ASI President David R. Alexander. «With attritableONE technology that is survivable and precise, Sparrowhawk is a true game changer».
The Sparrowhawk sUAS was carried on a MQ-9A and controlled exclusively using GA-ASI’s Metis Software Defined Control Station hosted on a laptop computer, which drastically reduced the system’s logistical footprint and supports the vision for interfaces to the aircraft from across the battlefield – without the need for a Ground Control Station shelter or vehicle. Communications were achieved using a fielded meshONE datalink, enabling collaborative autonomy capabilities among the platforms. The Cooperation in Denied Environments (CODE) autonomy engine was implemented to further understand cognitive Artificial Intelligence (AI) processing for unmanned systems.
The test flights build on the capabilities demonstrated when Gray Eagle carried two Area-I Altius-600 Air Launched Effects (ALEs) during Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) demonstrations, underscoring GA-ASI’s commitment to expanding the capabilities of its aircraft. Sparrowhawk and airborne recovery also enable these benefits:
Allows below-the-weather Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), and enables reduced visual and acoustic ISR
Enables attritable ISR/Electronic Warfare (EW) in the contested environment, allowing the MQ-9 to stand off at safe ranges
Employs larger and more expensive payloads at greater transit ranges compared to ground-launched aircraft and air-launched expendables
Maintains the chain of custody, through adverse weather, MQ-9 rotations, or with multiple targets