General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. has introduced a new sonobuoy capability for its MQ-9 Guardian maritime unmanned air vehicle which, alongside a number of other developing technologies, could make it a contender to help fill the UK’s maritime patrol gap.
A concept was presented at the Royal Navy’s maritime awareness conference at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall on 24 September, which showed a number of sonobuoys being released from a bay on the UAV.
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.
The new sonobuoy capability has been developed alongside Ultra Electronics over two years, Jonny King, director for General Atomics’ UK division, says.
“What we’re really looking at is a Predator B carrying sonobuoys, controlling them, and sending sonobuoy information back to the ground station over a SATCOM link,” King says.
“The work has seen us put the system together in a lab and carry out ground testing and prove it end to end. We were ready to go flying in 2015, but the aircraft were diverted to more urgent work. So we will be flying this early in the new year to prove the system.”