Air Platforms

Leonardo pushes ISR options for SkyGuardian UAV

04 February 2019

An artist’s impression of the Protector RG1 in RAF service. Leonardo and GA-ASI are exploring several sensor and electronic support payloads for the air vehicle. Source: GA-ASI

Leonardo is eyeing potential integration of its intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) systems aboard the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9B SkyGuardian medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (MALE UAV), which is the baseline for the UK Royal Air Force's (RAF's) future Protector RG1 platform.

The company is working with GA-ASI to test several of its ISR and electronic warfare (EW) products, including the Sage electronic support measures (ESM) system following an industry partnership announced during the 2018 Farnborough Airshow.

Sage is being pitched as a non-intrusive radio frequency (RF) detect-and-locate capability for the Protector RG1. Unlike conventional podded ISR systems, the antennas can be mounted on the wingtips therefore freeing up hardpoint space for other payloads such as weapons. Moreover, its configuration does not impose additional drag.

Integration of the Seaspray 7500E multimode active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar is also being considered. The radar had previously been explored for integration onto the RAF's existing fleet of MQ-9 Reapers.

A new processing capability derived from Leonardo's Osprey AESA radar adds an advanced capability to the Seaspray radar, which ensures that it will benefit from the highest level of computing power available to a surveillance radar, Brendan Nolan, vice-president of sales for radar and advanced targeting at Leonardo, told Jane's .

The X-band configuration adds an all-weather capability, and the company had already been planning to incorporate the processing capability of Osprey into Seaspray, but the business case for it had not arisen until RAF's Protector programme manifested.

The new computing system is smaller and more compact than the previous iteration, and provides Seaspray with the ability to simultaneously monitor a greater number of tracks.

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