General Atomics Aeronautical Systems has introduced a new sonobuoy capability for its MQ-9 Guardian maritime UAV which, alongside a number of other developing technologies, could make it a contender to help fill the UK’s maritime patrol gap.
While a requirement for a Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) acquisition has yet to be released from the UK government, the developments that General Atomics is incorporating into the MQ-9 suggests that it will look to offer a modified Guardian to complement a manned MPA that is expected to be procured.
Other technology developments that the company is advancing include extended-range wings with external fuel tanks – something that has just been fielded with the US Air Force for the first time. The Guardian has a 1,000nm (1,850km) range and can stay on station for a further 10h, while the extended range variant has a 1,900nm range plus 10h on station.
Meanwhile, the company is developing a certifiable variant of the MQ-9 that will be able to fly in national airspace. This includes integration of the company’s detect and avoid Due Regard Radar system – for which it has been working with NASA and the US Federal Aviation Administration – into a modified MQ-9 nose, plus de-icing, lightning protection and a composite make-up similar to that on a Boeing 787.
A prototype of the detect and avoid system has just completed the third round of testing with NASA’s MQ-9-based Ikhana UAV, and testing using a certifiable system is expected to take place next year and be ready for certification in 2017.