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

2024-07-05

MQ-9B: Enhancing Peace and Stability in the Arabian Gulf and Beyond

Preserving peace and stability in and around the Arabian Gulf is never easy, but it always has been – and will always remain – vital. The responsible nations of the region need every advantage. 
 
The right actions require the right insights, and gathering the information that informs them is essential. That’s why intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance is the foundation for security across the board – over land, over coastal areas, and both over and under the sea by dropping sonobuoys to detect threats. Current challenges are increasing and becoming increasingly complex, which is why the tools for addressing them must advance ahead of need.
 
One key example is the MQ-9B SeaGuardian, a medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft system built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. It offers everything an advanced nation such as the United Arab Emirates needs in a platform of this kind for work in every domain. 
 
The aircraft can fly for a very long time – as many as 40 hours in some configurations – while collecting extremely high-quality ISR data. MQ-9B can move seamlessly from one operation to another on the same mission, if necessary, and nimbly flex between different types of operations –both civil (like environmental monitoring and humanitarian assistance) and defence (like border security and long-range strategic ISR). It’s remarkably flexible and incredibly capable. 
 
Superior Design
Part of the reason is the aircraft’s design – it’s lightweight with a long wingspan, so it uses fuel very efficiently. With no people on board, SeaGuardian can use its volume to maximum productivity. Remote operation also means no vulnerability for a pilot to become fatigued or to face dangerous conditions. Crews can work safely and remotely from a ground control station. They can be sited anywhere and connect to the airplane via a satellite link. When one set of pilots and crew finishes a shift, another group can come in and take over. 
Working in this way means taking maximum advantage of pilots and crews while also giving them a sustainable long-term duty cycle. And with more than one aircraft in operation, working in teams, it means that intelligence officials, or a coast guard agency, or other users can effectively watch a location nonstop. Nothing can happen in a section of ocean, or in a key waterway, without being seen.
 
If it can be seen, it can be acted upon. Imagine a ship in distress. MQ-9B patrols mean there’s no need to conduct a search because the aircraft is already on scene. The aircraft can see precisely where the ship is and immediately assess its condition. Is it on fire? Are there lifeboats? Simply put, MQ-9B takes the “search” out of “search and rescue” and helps speed the “rescue.” The coast guard can send a helicopter right over to the point of distress for immediate response. 
This has already been borne out in the real world and applies in any number of other use cases.
 
International Demand
Examples include several successful exercises with the United States Navy in which MQ-9B took part in fleet exercises such as escort, communications relay, and anti-submarine warfare. The aircraft’s capabilities mean it’s in high demand elsewhere around the world too.
The U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command is flying MQ-9B to develop advanced new concepts for unmanned systems. In the United Kingdom, the Royal Air Force has received its first aircraft with others set to arrive in short order. SeaGuardian is helping the Japan Coast Guard transform maritime domain awareness over Japanese waters. Another very important customer is India, and more countries are lining up. MQ-9B delivers what many nations like the UAE are looking for. 
 
SeaGuardian has an electro-optical sensor in the nose that shows very high-quality video pictures, day or night. It also has a multi-mode radar that provides additional ways to sense and observe what’s below. 
 
Inverse synthetic aperture radar, for example, gives a very detailed look in three dimensions of the hypothetical vessel on the surface in the notional search and rescue example. Or MQ-9B can make maps on land of any area of interest, or long routes below the aircraft, such as roads or railroads. Change detection lets the aircraft see how patterns below have altered over time. For example, it can note the presence of tire tracks through sand that weren’t there before. 
 
SeaGuardian can also accommodate any number of specialized payloads depending on the requirements of the mission. These payloads could enhance communications. They could enhance sensing. With so many payload options, the aircraft can be easily tailored to take on many different roles.
 
In the case of the UAE, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems is working with EDGE to ensure that the UAE’s aircraft are able to take on board the weapons that the UAE government requires for its missions. The integration work underway now is a historic advancement in U.S. and UAE defense cooperation.
This partnership on aircraft payloads is only the latest example of a longstanding relationship between the United States and the UAE in which General Atomics has had the privilege to contribute.
 
UAE has been flying the Predator XP remotely piloted aircraft for many years, and General Atomics’ commitments to the UAE go beyond the long-term support it’s planning for additional aircraft systems. Projects planned in the UAE also span the most important areas of technological development, including aircraft as well as next-generation advanced materials and energy.
 
The need – and urgency – for collaborations like these have never been more obvious. That’s why it’s so important for the United States, the UAE, and General Atomics to continue working together to preserve peace and stability in the Arabian Gulf region and beyond.
 

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