A General Atomics Reaper drone, better known as the Predator B, has demonstrated the capability to track a MK-39 EMATT (Expendable Mobile ASW Training Target) for continuous 3 hours. On November 24, a GA-ASI MQ-9A Block 5 deployed 10 sonobuoys of different types in the U.S. Navy Pacific test range. Using a SATCOM link, GA-ASI remotely processed bathythermal and acoustic data from the buoy. The deployed buoys included seven DIFAR-AN/SSQ-53G ‘A’ size Directional Frequency Analysis and Recording buoys, two DICASS-AN/SSQ-62F Directional Command Activated Sonobuoy Systems and one BT-AN/SSQ-36B Bathythermograph sonobuoy. These sonobuoys accurately generated a target track in real time from the Laguna Flight Operations Facility located at Yuma Proving Grounds. The tracking was handled by the General Dynamics UYS-505 Sonobuoy Processing Systems made in Canada.
The demonstration was a part of GA-ASI’s new MQ-9B SeaGuardian UAS project in partnership with the U.S. Navy under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md.
“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,” states the GA-ASI release.
In standard configuration, the SeaGuardian UAS can fly in excess of 18 hours and with a mission radius of 1200 nautical miles. It can provide eight hours submarine tracking. The UAS can be deployed in manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) operations.
The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Indian Navy operate the MQ-9B SeaGuardian UAS. THE US currently operates SH-60 Seahawk and P-8 Poseidon for ASW duties.