Military and Strategic Journal
Issued by the Directorate of Morale Guidance at the General Command of the Armed Forces
United Arab Emirates
Founded in August 1971

2021-12-05

Nation Shield Discusses UAS with Global Leader General Atomics

David R. Alexander, president of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), shared his thoughts with Nation Shield on remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) and the company’s recent demonstrations in Europe with its MQ-9B SeaGuardian. 
 
Over the summer, GA-ASI performed a series of maritime and airspace integration focused demonstrations in Europe using the MQ-9B SeaGuardian. What can you tell us about that event? 
Our European Maritime Demonstrations were a huge success. We worked closely with the Royal Air Force (launch customer for the MQ-9B) to showcase our maritime surveillance capability. MQ-9B operational capabilities on display included the platform’s advanced maritime Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and industry-leading endurance and interoperability with NATO partners. And it’s an all-weather platform with de-ice and lightning protection, as well as SATCOM over-the-horizon ATLC (automatic take-off and landing capability). 
 
SeaGuardian supported Exercise Joint Warrior, which took place at the end of the five-week event. A demonstration of Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T) featured the SeaGuardian and an RAF P-8 human-crewed patrol aircraft, showing SeaGuardian’s ability to complement Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) tasking, which included tracking, monitoring and reporting of sonobuoys.
 
For our global military customers, the acquisition of the MQ-9B SkyGuardian/SeaGuardian enables a system of Multi-Domain Operations in direct support of Land, Maritime Surveillance, ASW, Anti-Surface Warfare, Strike, Electronic Warfare roles and expeditionary roles. The RPA’s ability to network with other Air, Sea, Land and Space systems creates an exceptional opportunity to expand employment options.
Our Detect and Avoid (DAA) system was also centre stage, providing our remote pilot with the same kind of inflight traffic awareness as a commercial airline pilot would see. Our DAA enhances the operational flexibility of the RPA with STANAG certification to 40,000 flight hours opening up access to fly in any airspace. 
 
Many of the flights included the cooperation of multiple airspace authorities, just like commercial aircraft. We flew SeaGuardian from England to the Netherlands, which included coordination with the Civil Aviation Authority. Then we flew the first point-to-point domestic flight of an unmanned aircraft that utilised the UK’s airways structure when we flew from RAF Waddington in England to RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland under control of NATS, the UK’s civilian Air Navigation Service Provider.
 
These flights demonstrated the safety of our unmanned aircraft system (UAS) flying in civil airspace and unlock huge flexibility and potential for our customers – in this case, the RAF, but these aircraft are in demand all over the world and can adapt to anyplace they’re needed. 
We heard that the GA-ASI’s Predator series of aircraft recently surpassed 7 million flight hours. Congratulations!
 
Thank you. We achieved that milestone this year. We produce remotely piloted aircraft with some of the highest mission-capable rates of any aircraft – manned or unmanned. Now we’ve surpassed 7 million flight hours across all our platforms, including Predator A and Predator XP; Predator B/MQ-9A Reaper, Predator B Extended Range (ER), Gray Eagle/ER; Predator C Avenger/ER; MQ-9B SkyGuardian and SeaGuardian. Accomplishing this milestone is really about the dependability of our aircraft. They’re sophisticated machines but they make things simple for our customers: We build them, and they fly them … for a long, long time. 
 
As a regular participant at Dubai Airshow, how was this year’s experience?
This year’s show was obviously unique because it came on the heels of the global pandemic. But we’re thrilled to be able to once again engage with customers and the industry at large. We featured our proven line of RPA, in particular, our new MQ-9B SkyGuardian and the maritime variant, SeaGuardian. We also showcased how we could rapidly transform the data that our systems gather and turn it into actionable intelligence using our proven STARE software platform. 
 
The UAE became your first customer that was not the U.S. or a NATO country. How strongly has your company’s relationship with the UAE evolved over the years?
We were very proud to announce the UAE as a customer back in 2013 (first aircraft delivered in 2017). And I know the aircraft, with its wide-area surveillance capabilities, has become important in helping the UAE realise its goal of strengthening national security, while also protecting its critical infrastructure. We’ve continued to build our relationship with the UAE, which now includes their interest in procuring our latest model, the MQ-9B SkyGuardian and SeaGuardian.   
 
It’s known that GA-ASI is in discussion with a number of customers from the Middle East for possible deals on a variety of RPA. Any major breakthroughs?
The MQ-9B is designed and developed to be the preeminent multi-role RPA. The global response, with a series of selection announcements in Europe and Asia, has been very positive.  This region is no exception, and this platform has enjoyed the same level of enthusiastic interest and support from our allies. So keep your eyes open for more announcements! 
 
What are the future plans of your company as far as the MENA (Middle East/North Africa) region is concerned?
The need for dependable, high quality ISR is increasing around the world, and that includes the Middle East and North Africa. The MQ-9B brings even greater endurance, and payload capacity. Our robust customer base and growing list of future customers means that the MQ-9B will benefit from a large users group community benefiting the sustainability of the platform long into the future. 
 

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