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General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) has been selected to support the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s (JMSDF’s) Medium-Altitude, Long-Endurance (MALE) remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) Trial Operation Project, the US unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) manufacturer announced on 27 February 2023. The project will feature GA-ASI’s MQ-9B SeaGuardian UAV and will begin in April 2023.

The SeaGuardian will be used to conduct various tests to review adaptability to support the JMSDF’s manned-unmanned teaming missions as well as its manpower reduction initiatives. The Japanese government has announced that the Japan Coast Guard and JMSDF will be exchanging the data obtained by the MQ-9Bs operated for each of the government branches.

GA-ASI’s SeaGuardian UAV will be conducting trials with the JMSDF from April 2023. (Photo credit: GA-ASI)

“We’re pleased to support the JMSDF’s trial operation with our SeaGuardian,” GA-ASI President David R Alexander was quoted as saying in a 27 February press release. “We know there is a need in Japan and worldwide for affordable long-endurance airborne surveillance in the maritime domain.”

The SeaGuardian features a multi-mode maritime surface-search radar with an inverse synthetic aperture radar (ISAR) imaging mode, an Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver, and a high-definition, full-motion video sensor equipped with optical and infrared cameras. “This allows real-time detection and identification of surface vessels over thousands of square nautical miles and provides automatic tracking of maritime targets and correlation of AIS transmitters with radar tracks,” the company stated.

SeaGuardian, together with its SkyGuardian stablemate, are built to achieve type certification based on NATO Stanag-4671 airworthiness compliance, allowing the UAVs to operate in civil airspace.

Peter Felstead