Military leaders in the Department of the Navy are getting increasingly familiar with unmanned aircraft from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI), vehicles that are more commonplace in the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army.
The U.S. Marine Corps has worked with the aircraft to a certain extent – though the early experience was with aircraft both owned and operated by the Poway company. The Marines have since started buying aircraft of their own. On May 16, GA-ASI announced that it delivered the Marines’ first new-build MQ-9A Extended Range (ER) aircraft to the Naval Air Systems Command (aka NAVAIR); that delivery happened in mid-April. The delivery is part of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Unmanned Expeditionary (MUX) Program.
“It’s exciting to make this initial delivery to NAVAIR, which strengthens the relationship between GA-ASI, the USMC and NAVAIR, while launching the MUX MALE Program of Record from concept into reality,” said Fred Darlington, senior vice president for MQ-9 systems at General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI). MALE is an abbreviation for Medium-Altitude, Long-Endurance.
In 2022, the Marines selected GA-ASI to deliver eight MQ-9A ER aircraft as part of the ARES indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract.
The MQ-9A ER is designed with field-retrofittable capabilities such as wing-borne fuel pods and reinforced landing gear that extend the aircraft’s endurance to more than 30 hours while further increasing its operational flexibility. The aircraft provides long-endurance, persistent surveillance capabilities with full-motion video and synthetic aperture radar/moving target indicator/maritime mode radar.
Navy Tests MQ-9B
Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy tested MQ-9B SeaGuardian models in two recent military exercises: the Group Sail exercise, held April 12-17 in Hawaii, as well as Integrated Battle Problem 23.1, held during the first two weeks of May in waters off San Clemente Island. The latter included unmanned vehicles on the ocean’s surface as well as under the surface, in addition to unmanned aircraft.
Cmdr. Jerry Daley, commanding officer of Unmanned Surface Vessel Division One, said multiple vendors worked together so their unmanned systems could interact during the May exercise off Southern California.
The Navy put the MQ-9B to work in subsurface warfare, Daley said, adding that the Navy modified the airframe. He did not elaborate on the modifications. Though the MQ-9B must take off and land at a shore installation, Daley said the unmanned aircraft’s range is “significantly higher” than that of the traditional maritime patrol aircraft.
GA-ASI advertises that the MQ-9B can stay on station for up to 25 hours, compared to 10 hours for manned patrol aircraft. When conducting anti-submarine warfare, the aircraft is able to deploy, monitor and control sonobuoys. Sonobuoys detect underwater sounds and transmit them by radio.
GA-ASI announced in April that its MQ-9B aircraft was recently able to travel nonstop between Hawaii and GA’s facility in the California desert, a distance of more than 2,500 nautical miles.
The Poway company said in a statement that the April exercise had SeaGuardian integrating with Navy ships (carriers, cruisers and destroyers) and aircraft (F-35C, F/A-18, EA-18G, E-2D, MH-60 and P-8) to support various missions that included maritime domain awareness, surface warfare, information warfare, and numerous time-sensitive targeting objectives and simulated battle damage assessments.
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems is an affiliate of privately held General Atomics, based in the Torrey Pines Mesa area of San Diego.
INDUS Gets Repeat Business
INDUS Technology Inc. announced on May 8 that it received a deal worth approximately $82 million, covering program planning and logistics support services. If the client exercises all of its options, the period of performance will end in February 2028.
The client is a program office of NAVWAR, the Naval Information Warfare Systems Command, Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence (PEO C4I). The specific program office is PMW 790, Shore and Expeditionary Integration.
This win represents INDUS’ fourth consecutive award to support this tasking which includes production systems engineering, logistics management services, program and project management, and principal integration platform manager (PIPM) support.
“INDUS is honored to be selected as the awardee for these mission-critical PMW 790 services for the fourth consecutive time,” said Eric MacGregor, president and CEO of INDUS. “This contract has been a cornerstone to our company for many years and I’m incredibly proud of our dedicated and loyal employees who continue to support this effort at such a high level.”
Richard Hart, INDUS senior vice president, will manage the effort.