JMSDF begins SeaGuardian UAV assessment

SeaGuardian UAV -- GA-ASI
SeaGuardian UAV

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) has commenced trials of the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9B SeaGuardian medium altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (MALE UAV) from the service’s Hachinohe Air Base in northern Honshu on 9 May.

The latest development follows a company announcement in February, which stated that it had been selected to support the JMSDF for its MALE UAV Trial Operation Project, with work expected to have started in April.

The UAV has already gained an inroad with Japan, with the coast guard having commenced flight operations in October 2020 aimed at validating the performance of the air vehicle and its sensors. The effort was also carried out at the JMSDF’s Hachinohe Air Base.

It is understood that Japan Coast Guard-operated SeaGuardians are expected to be mainly conducting maritime wide-area searches over the Sea of Japan – especially the Yamatotai Bank west of Japan that is routinely subject to illegal fishing by foreign boats – and the Pacific Ocean.

“SeaGuardian is the world’s premier asset for performing maritime wide-area searches,” Robert Schoeffling, VP of International Strategic Development at GA-ASI, earlier commented. “We’re proud to support the government of Japan’s policy to strengthen its maritime security.”

JCG SeaGuardians are equipped with the Raytheon SeaVue multi-mode maritime surface search radar with an inverse synthetic aperture radar imaging mode, an electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor plus a high-definition full-motion video sensor and an Automatic Identification System (AIS).

The Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) also operates the high-altitude long endurance (HALE)-class RQ-4B Global Hawk UAV developed by Northrop Grumman. The first of three RQ-4 Block 30i air vehicles ordered by Japan arrived home after a transatlantic flight from the company’s Palmdale facility in March 2022, with first local JASDF-operated flights understood to have commenced in December that year.

by Jr Ng