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Sea Guardian MQ-9B operates with Independence-class LCS USS Coronado


According to information published by U.S. Department of Defense on April 26, 2021, U.S. Navy demonstrated the successful integration of an unmanned maritime surveillance aircraft system with manned capabilities during the Unmanned Systems Integrated Battle Problem 21 (UxS IBP 21) off the coast of San Diego.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) MQ-9B Sea Guardian (Picture source: US Navy)


The unmanned MQ-9B Sea Guardian operated in conjunction with a guided-missile cruiser, executing long-range, over-the-horizon targeting. Using sonobuoys and other assets, the Sea Guardian identified contacts and reported locations remotely to the commander on board the cruiser.

Operational synchronization between unmanned capabilities and traditional manned naval assets, like Independence-class LCS USS Coronado ensures the Navy maintains its technological and warfighting advantage. Sea Guardian enhances the Navy’s anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare capabilities, among many others.

UxS IBP 21 is a U.S. Pacific Fleet exercise, executed by U.S. 3rd Fleet, designed to integrate manned and unmanned capabilities into operational scenarios to generate warfighting advantages. The week-long event involves surface, subsurface, and aerial unmanned assets, operating with littoral combat ships, guided-missile destroyers, guided-missile cruisers, submarines and helicopter squadrons.

The SeaGuardian is a naval version of the MQ-9B which has more fuel capacity to reach a flight endurance of 49 hours. precision-guided munitions, Paveway IV laser-guided bomb, and Brimstone 2 air-to-surface missiles. The naval drone also features folding wings for storage, shortened, reinforced landing gear, an arresting hook, cut-down or eliminated ventral flight surfaces, and six store pylons for a total payload of 1,360 kg.