“GA-ASI Selected for Japan Coast Guard RPAS Project” –News Release

MQ-9B SeaGuardian. General Atomic photo.

Below is a news release from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. The USCG has yet to select their own shore based unmanned air system. Note, there is as yet no indication Japan Coast Guard is purchasing this system. It appears more likely they are using contractor owned and operated systems as a step toward a more comprehensive JCG owned and operated system. UAS on USCG cutters are still currently contractor owned and operated. 

GA-ASI Selected for Japan Coast Guard RPAS Project

Japan EEZ Surveillance Using SeaGuardian® RPA Scheduled to Begin in October

SAN DIEGO – 06 April 2022  General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), the global leader in Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), is pleased to be selected to support the Japan Coast Guard’s (JCG) RPAS Project. Operations will feature GA-ASI’s MQ-9B SeaGuardian® and begin in October 2022.

SeaGuardian will be used to conduct wide-area maritime surveillance to support JCG’s missions, which include search and rescue, disaster response, and maritime law enforcement. This project follows a series of successful JCG flight trials in 2020 that used SeaGuardian to validate the same JCG missions in accordance with Japan’s “Policy on Strengthening the Maritime Security Systems,” using unmanned aerial vehicles to perform maritime wide-area surveillance.

“We’re proud to support the JCG’s maritime surveillance mission with our SeaGuardian UAS,” said Linden Blue, CEO of GA-ASI. “The system’s ability to provide affordable, extremely long-endurance airborne surveillance with long-range sensors in the maritime domain is unprecedented.”

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 High-Definition – Full-Motion Video sensor equipped with optical and infrared cameras. This sensor suite enables 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.

SkyGuardian® and SeaGuardian® are revolutionizing the long-endurance RPAS market by providing all-weather capability and full compliance with STANAG-4671 (NATO UAS airworthiness standard). This feature, along with our operationally proven, collision-avoidance radar, enables flexible operations in civil airspace.

About GA-ASI

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), an affiliate of General Atomics, is a leading designer and manufacturer of proven, reliable, Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) systems, radars, and electro-optic and related mission systems, including the Predator® RPA series and the Lynx® Multi-mode Radar. With more than seven million flight hours, GA-ASI provides long-endurance, mission-capable aircraft with integrated sensor and data link systems required to deliver persistent flight that enables situational awareness and rapid strike. The company also produces a variety of ground control stations and sensor control/image analysis software, offers pilot training and support services, and develops meta-material antennas. For more information, visit www.ga-asi.com

“U.S. forges maritime technology collaborations to improve domain awareness” –Indo-Pacific Defense Forum

The Indo-Pacific Defense Forum brings us news of a Navy sponsored Maritime Domain Awareness program that may be very useful to the Coast Guard.

Recent successes include the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory’s (NRL’s) new program, called Proteus, to identify, query and filter maritime vessels based on user-defined criteria and the Defense Innovation Unit’s (DIU’s) international competition, known as xView3, to create machine learning models to locate and distinguish maritime vessels with synthetic aperture radar.

“Artificial intelligence combined with satellite imagery provides a new capability to detect suspected IUU fishing vessels that may otherwise elude U.S. and partner nations fisheries enforcement agencies. This increased maritime domain awareness can be shared with like-minded partner nations to enable them to protect their sovereignty.”

The NRL’s Proteus software, pictured, monitors sea vessels so stakeholders can “collaboratively discover and investigate suspicious and illegal maritime activity throughout the world in ways never before possible,” said Cameron Naron, the U.S. Maritime Administration’s maritime security director.

A description here by the US Naval Research Laboratory.

“PROTEUS is an exciting new U.S. government Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) system providing a powerful array of MDA information and analysis tools,” said Cameron Naron, Director of Maritime Security, US Maritime Administration. “This system enables MDA stakeholders to collaboratively discover and investigate suspicious and illegal maritime activity throughout the world in ways never before possible.”

  • Additional actions supported by PROTEUS include: Counter Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing (IUUF)
  • Maritime Protected Areas (MPAs)
  • Search and Rescue (SAR)
  • Critical Infrastructure Protection
  • Environmental Protection & Response
  • Maritime Law Enforcement
  • Counter smuggling (drugs, weapons, money, people)

This could be of assistance to any nation attempting to counter Illegal, Unregulated, Unreported fishing, including the island nations of the Western Pacific, who are desperately short on resources to monitor their ocean assets.

Odd Ball ISR

A couple of posts from “The Drive” about aircraft that fit somewhere between High Altitude Drones and more common reconnaissance aircraft, sort of low budget U-2s. The first, “The U.S. Coast Guard May Be Flying a Unique Stealthy Spy Plane,” now almost five years old, suggest there might be Coast Guard interest in the second, “Unusual High-Altitude Spy Plane Appears at Special Operations Exercise.”

We know the Coast Guard has dabbled with these type aircraft for drug interdiction, and so far, the Coast Guard has not chosen an Unmanned system to fill this role.

“THERE’S A RACE FOR ARCTIC-CAPABLE DRONES GOING ON, AND THE UNITED STATES IS LOSING” –Modern War Institute

Modern War Institute alerts us to the limitations of US drone technology in the Arctic.

“America’s drones struggle to compete against Russia in the Arctic. In 2019, Russia’s equivalent of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced a drone capable of remaining airborne for four consecutive days in the Arctic. Russian state sources report their drones can navigate in the Arctic without the use of jammable satellite-based navigation instead employing the alternative GIRSAM system. While the processes behind this system are unknown, supposedly it does not rely on GPS satellites or those of the Russian-developed GLONASS. Not until 2021—two years later—did an American MQ-9A Reaper drone complete a flight navigating with satellites past the seventy-eighth parallel north. Additionally, Russia plans to build an Arctic drone reconnaissance base four hundred and twenty miles off the Alaskan coastline. By 2025, the ability of Russian drones to monitor air, surface, and subsurface activity will far outpace the United States in the Arctic region.”

This is certainly an area the Coast Guard is interested in and one where the Coast Guard’s assets can be of assistance.

Two About Puma sUAS

Royal Navy Photo

Naval News reports on the Royal Navy’s increasing use of the Puma small Unmanned Air System (sUAS).

And we have this from Seapower, regarding a new night time imaging system.

The Puma is a system the Coast Guard has experimented with more than once, and the Canadians have also adopted it. My last look at this small UAS with comments on its suitability and links to previous posts here.

“U.S. Warships Have This Seldom Discussed But Very Powerful Optical Targeting System” –The Drive

USCGC Hamilton with its EOSS (Electro Optic Sensor System) atop its bridge. 

The Drive/The War Zone has a post regarding the Mk20 Mod1 Electro Optic Sensor System (EOSS) that is equipping National Security Cutters and Offshore Patrol Cutters in addition to the Navy’s newest destroyers and the new FFG. The post is in the form of an interview with a company rep.

We have talked about this system before here.

For such an inconspicuous system, it looks to be extremely useful. Other than using it as a firecontrol for ASuW and AAW, this system can be used for:

  • Location and tracking a man overboard
  • Channel position and navigation
  • Detection and identification including looking for the IR signature of low profile vessels
  • Naval gunfire support
  • Safety check-sight
  • Battle Damage Assessment

These will definitely be used on the Offshore Patrol Cutter. The earlier Mk20 Mod0 version was in the Draft Technical Package back in 2012.

“GA-ASI Flies MQ-9 in the Canadian Arctic” –Seapower

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems’ MQ-9A “Big Wing” UAS flew in the hostile climate of the Canadian Arctic. GA-ASI

The Navy League’s Seapower website reports,

 In a flight that originated from its Flight Test and Training Center (FTTC) near Grand Forks, North Dakota, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) flew a company-owned MQ-9A “Big Wing” configured unmanned aircraft system north through Canadian airspace past the 78th parallel, the company said in a Sept. 10 release.

A traditional limitation of long-endurance UAS has been their inability to operate at extreme northern (and southern) latitudes, as many legacy SATCOM datalinks can become less reliable above the Arctic (or below the Antarctic) Circle – approximately 66 degrees north. At those latitudes, the low-look angle to geostationary Ku-band satellites begins to compromise the link. GA-ASI has demonstrated a new capability for effective ISR operations by performing a loiter at 78.31° North, using Inmarsat’s L-band Airborne ISR Service (LAISR).

The 78th parallel lies more than 1200 nautical miles North of Kodiak. Getting any kind of air recon that far north, other than perhaps icebreaker based helicopters, has always been difficult.

Even our icebreakers have difficulty communicating. Satellite coverage at these high latitudes is spotty at best.

The ability to operate UAS in this environment could substantially improve our Polar Domain Awareness and serve as a communications relay for multiunit operations in the Arctic or Antarctic.

The high altitude capability of these aircraft also provides a far larger view than would be possible from a helicopters. The horizon distance from 45,000 feet is about 250 nautical miles.

“PteroDynamics Secures Contract with US Navy to Deliver Cargo VTOL Aircraft” –News Release

Below is a news release from PteroDynamics.

This looks like it might be an interesting aircraft type to operate from cutters. If it can carry cargo it can also carry sensors.

A small, unmanned version might provide patrol boats with search and identification capabilities currently available only to much larger cutters.

A larger version might replace helicopters while providing greater range and speed.

An even larger version, operating from shore or the largest cutters, might combine both search and rescue functions now provided by fixed wing search aircraft and rotary wing rescue aircraft. Combining those functions probably should be a long term Coast Guard objective. Not that the Coast Guard can fund manned aircraft development, but it seems likely the capability will be developed.

Apparently the Navy thinks the concept is promising enough to put at least some money into small prototypes.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.–PteroDynamics, an aircraft design and manufacturing company that develops innovative vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft, is today announcing it has secured a contract with Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) to deliver 3 VTOL prototypes for the Blue Water Maritime Logistics UAS (BWUAS) program.

“Our design is well suited for operations on ships where windy conditions and tight spaces challenge other VTOL aircraft during takeoffs and landings.”

In 2018, Military Sealift Command and Fleet Forces Command identified a need for the United States Navy to develop a capability to autonomously deliver cargo with an unmanned aerial system (UAS) to and from ships at sea. Their analysis found that 90% of critical repair cargo delivered at sea by helicopters and V-22 aircraft weighed less than 50 pounds. A VTOL UAS can fill this critical need and free the manned aircraft to perform other higher priority missions.

“We are honored to be selected for this important project,” said Matthew Graczyk, PteroDynamics’ CEO. “This contract is the start of an important partnership, and we look forward to delivering the prototypes to NAWCAD.”

“This is an exciting milestone for our distinctive VTOL aircraft,” added Val Petrov, PhD, PteroDynamics’ founder and CTO. “Our design is well suited for operations on ships where windy conditions and tight spaces challenge other VTOL aircraft during takeoffs and landings.”

“Using unmanned, autonomous aircraft for delivery of these critical payloads is an important capability for the Navy to have,” said Blue Water’s project lead, Bill Macchione. “The innovative design of PteroDynamics offers significant potential for both military and civilian missions.”

About PteroDynamics

PteroDynamics is an aircraft design and manufacturing company that has developed a novel VTOL aircraft design that folds its wings during flight to transition between rotorcraft and fixed-wing configurations. Protected by three issued and five pending U.S. and international patents, Transwing® aircraft have improved controllability in takeoff and landing and typically require 1/3 of the ground footprint as compared to other aircraft with the same wingspan. Transwing®’s clean aerodynamic shape also allows it to fly faster and further than competitive designs. PteroDynamics is venture-backed by Kairos Ventures.

About NAWCAD

NAWCAD conducts research, development, test, evaluation, and sustainment for all United States Navy and United States Marine Corps aircraft and aircraft systems. Its diverse workforce of more than 10,000 military, civilian, and contractor engineers, scientists, testers, and other professionals support an evolving battlespace through research, development, test, and evaluation of both fielded and not-yet fielded naval and marine corps platforms and technology. Headquartered in Patuxent River, Maryland, the warfare center collaborates across its sites in St. Inigoes, Maryland; Lakehurst, New Jersey; and Orlando, Florida to ensure America’s warfighter always goes into conflict with significant advantage.

Contacts

Kayla Jones
Media@PteroDynamics.com

 

“Coast Guard delivers ninth Minotaur-missionized HC-144 to fleet” –CG-9

CGNR 2310 departs for its second test flight after completing Minotaur missionization. It is the Coast Guard’s ninth HC-144B Ocean Sentry outfitted with both Ocean Sentry Refresh modifications and the Minotaur mission system. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Aviation Engineering Warrant Officer 3 Randy Jopp.

The Acquisitions Directorate, CG-9 reports,


The Coast Guard accepted delivery of its ninth HC-144B Ocean Sentry medium range surveillance aircraft outfitted with both the Ocean Sentry Refresh (OSR) modifications and the Minotaur mission system Dec. 16, 2020. Modifications to CGNR 2310 were completed at the Aviation Logistics Center in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. The aircraft will be based at Coast Guard Air Station Miami.

The OSR project upgrades the aircraft with a new flight management system, which manages communication control, navigation and equipment monitoring. After the OSR upgrade is completed, each aircraft is redesignated as an HC-144B.

Minotaur integrates installed sensors and radar and provides dramatically improved data fusion as well as information processing and sharing capabilities.

Completion of missionization and upgrade of a 10th HC-144 is scheduled for June 2021. The service plans to upgrade each of the service’s 18 HC-144s by 2024.

For more information: HC-144 program page and Minotaur program page

New Minotaur operator workstations are being installed on all HC-144Bs. Minotaur provides dramatically improved data fusion and integrates installed sensors and radar. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Aviation Engineering Warrant Officer 3 Randy Jopp.

“British Army drone to fly over English Channel to monitor migrant boats” –Independent

Thales Watchkeeper WK450

Like the US Coast Guard, the UK Border Force conducts Alien Migrant Interdiction Operations. They are reportedly getting some assistance from the British Army in the form of Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAV) being used to patrol the English Channel.

The UAVs are Thales Watchkeeper WK 450s (manufacturer’s brochure here) an improved version of the Israeli Elbit Hermes 450 with the addition of a dual-mode synthetic aperture radar and ground moving target indication system, providing all weather target acquisition.

The Watchkeeper program has not been cheap, about 1.2 billion pounds to provide and support 54 drones, and it has had its problems. They were supposed to have been operational in 2010, but apparently only reached Initial Operational Capability in 2014. Five have crashed. Regarding the current fleet,

“45 Watchkeeper airframes were in service as at 23 July 2020. 13 have flown in the past 12 months and 23 have been in storage for longer than 12 months. Of those flying, 10 have been operated by the Army from Akrotiri in Cyprus and Boscombe Down in Wiltshire, three have been used for test and evaluation. The airframes in storage are held at specific, graduated, levels of readiness. This is commensurate with practices used on other Defence capabilities and assets.”

The airframes are:

  • Length: 19.69 ft (6 m)
  • Span: 34.45 ft (10.5 m)
  • Engine: Winkel rotary, 52 hp
  • Max Speed: 95 knots
  • Operational Radius: 200 km; 108 nm (Line of Sight)
  • Endurance: 16+ hours
  • Service ceiling 18,045 feet (5,500 m)

This means, it is about half the size of the familiar MQ-1 Predator, also a bit slower and their service ceiling is lower.

The British Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has selected Israel’s Elbit to demonstrate the capabilities of their larger Eblit Hermes 900 UAVs. which has capabilities similar to those of the MQ-1. Meanwhile the RAF is also flying surveillance over the English Channel.