ATHENS ($1=0.97 Euros) — On July 4, 2022, Greece’s arms treaty commission approved new weapons programs, one of which is the acquisition of the MQ-9B SeaGuardian with a budget of $400 million. The system is not unknown to Greece, nor is the decision to acquire this particular system a surprise.
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We remind you that on December 10, 2019, an official visit of the Greek military leadership and a briefing on the specific UAV was held at the 110th fighter air base [110 AM] in Larissa, and a few days later, on December 19, a corresponding flight demonstration.
The MQ-9B SeaGuardian is a version of the MQ-9B SkyGuardian, but with structural improvements for greater durability and use in extreme weather conditions and improved flight control software. In addition, the MQ-9B SeaGuardian is more resistant to bird strikes and lightning. In short, the MQ-9B SeaGuardian can perform a range of missions such as intelligence gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance, support for humanitarian operations and natural disaster response, search and rescue, border surveillance and anti-smuggling, etc.
The MQ-9B SeaGuardian’s primary sensor is the AN/DAS-1 MTS-B [Multi-Spectral Targeting System-B] multi-spectral targeting system with a monochrome and color daytime television camera, infrared camera, and image intensifier camera with a rangefinder and laser designator. It also includes AN/APY-8 Lynx II radar with a synthetic imaging system, a moving ground target indicator system, and a maritime area survey system. For safe flight, especially over populated areas, the MQ-9B SeaGuardian integrates the TCAS II [Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System] and ADS-B [Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast] systems.
In January 2021, GA-ASI announced that, in collaboration with Italy’s Leonardo, it will integrate the SeaSpray-7500E V2 surface search radar into the MQ-9B SeaGuardian. The radar will be integrated externally, in a spindle, on the suspension’s ventral pylon. The SeaSprey-7500E V2 is an AESA intelligence gathering, surveillance, and reconnaissance technology radar. It weighs 104 kg, operates in the “X” frequency band, and has a range of 320 nautical miles [593 km].
In addition to sensors, MQ-9B SeaGuardians include a data link system and VHF/UHF communications systems. The systems have a service life of 40,000 flight hours and can take off and land automatically. They operate at a maximum operating altitude of 40,000 feet and can fly continuously for 40 hours. Their maximum speed is 389 kilometers per hour. Their length is 11.7 meters, and the wingspan is 24 meters. The maximum payload is 2177 kg on nine mounting stations [sensors and weapons]. The drone is powered by a Honeywell TPE331-10 engine with a maximum power of 900 hp. and a digital engine management system.
The MQ-9B SeaGuardian is one of the most advanced UAVs of its class in the world, capable of flying for more than a day. It is a multi-mission UAV whose modular architecture allows rapid integration of the payload, enabling full tactical situational awareness. Particularly important is the MQ-9B SeaGuardian’s ability to seek targets both above and below the sea surface.
We remind you that in January 2021, the US Navy tested the MQ-9A Block.5 Reaper in an anti-submarine role, as part of expanding the operational portfolio of the MQ-9B SeaGuardian version. During testing, the MQ-9A Block.5 Reaper carried and fired 10 sonars and was able to track a simulated underwater target for three hours using General Dynamics’ UYS-505 acoustic signal processing software. In addition, all this time he was transmitting the findings to a real target at a ground control station. According to GA-ASI, each MQ-9B SeaGuardian will be able to include “A” size sonar or “G” size sonar in an equal number of wing mounting stations.
Going forward, GA-ASI has announced that it will develop a new version of the MQ-9B SkyGuardian/SeaGuardian for short takeoff and landing for use by aircraft carriers or short runways. According to GA-ASI, the short takeoff and landing capability will significantly expand the operational range of the MQ-9B and enhance its commercial prospects. At the heart of the release will be a collection [optional] that will be integrated into the wing and tail section within 24 hours. The main ship and sensors remain intact. The MQ-9B’s wings will fold down to fit in a hangar while taking off from an aircraft carrier will not require the use of a catapult.
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