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General Atomics conducts validation flight with MQ-9B SeaGuardian in Japan


According to a press release published on October 19, 2020, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), a global leader in Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), kicked off a series of validation flights with MQ-9B SeaGuardian UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) on October 15, 2020, for Japan Coast Guard (JCG) in Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture, Japan. GA-ASI is working with Asia Air Survey (AAS) in Japan to conduct the flights.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 MQ-9B SeaGuardian. (Picture source General Atomics)


We appreciate Asia Air Survey’s support in demonstrating how the MQ-9B SeaGuardian® RPAS can provide affordable, long-endurance airborne surveillance of Japan’s maritime domain,” said Linden Blue, CEO, GA-ASI. “The system’s ability to correlate multiple sensor feeds and identify vessel anomalies provides effective, persistent maritime situational awareness.”

The SeaGuardian flights will validate the wide-area maritime surveillance capabilities of RPAS for carrying out JCG’s missions, from search and rescue to maritime law enforcement. These flights follow successful “legacy” MQ-9 maritime patrol demonstrations in the Korea Strait in 2018 and the Aegean Sea in 2019. The Hachinohe operation features the MQ-9B configuration, capable of all-weather operations in civil national and international airspace.

The SeaGuardian RPAS features a multi-mode maritime surface-search radar with Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar (ISAR) imaging mode, an Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver, 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.

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 UAVs). These features, along with an operationally proven collision-avoidance radar, enables flexible operations in civil airspace.

The SeaGuardian RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft System) is a naval variant of the MQ-9B SkyGuardian that can be configured to conduct maritime ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) missions. It can be configured with cross-domain capabilities for a vast range of maritime surveillance operations, including:

- Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW)
- Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW)
- HA/DR – Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief
- Search and Rescue
- Law Enforcement (Drug Trafficking, Illegal Immigration, Piracy
- OMSI – Oceanic Maritime Security Initiative)
- Airborne Counter Mine Capability (Developmental)