During a US Naval exercise on the last 12 October, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) demonstrated the remote detection and tracking of submerged contacts, such as submarines, using a MQ-9 PREDATOR B Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA).
Sonobuoys were deployed by US Navy helicopters and acoustic data gathered from the sonobuoys were used to track underwater targets. The data was transmitted to the MQ-9 and processed onboard, then relayed to the RPA’s Ground Control Station (GCS) several hundred miles away from the target area. The flight test was conducted over the Southern California Offshore Range (SCORE) west of San Clemente Island.
The event successfully paired sonobuoy receiver, supplied by Ultra Electronics, and data processing technology, provided by General Dynamics Mission Systems-Canada, onboard the PREDATOR B. A track solution was calculated and transmitted from the aircraft to the GCS via satellite communication (SATCOM). This technology will provide long-range patrol and relay capabilities to the MQ-9 to augment maritime mission sets. “This test demonstrated the ability of our RPA to detect submarines and provide persistent tracking of submerged targets,” said Linden Blue, CEO, GA-ASI.
The MQ-9 was also equipped with GA-ASI’s LYNX multi-mode radar, featuring its Maritime Wide-Area Search (MWAS) mode, which detects maritime surface targets over a wide area with Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar (ISAR) for target classification. The aircraft’s Electro-optical/Infrared (EO/IR), high-definition Full-Motion Video (FMV) camera supports the identification of surface vessels. These sensor contacts are correlated with the Automatic Identification System (AIS) to verify target identity. Additionally, the MQ-9 can be fitted with a centreline pod that can house a longer-range, 360-degree field of regard maritime surface search radar for enhanced surveillance over water.