The Japanese Coast Guard has started operations with a newly delivered MQ-9B SeaGuardian drone, while more airborne early warning aircraft have arrived in the country by ship.
The UAV’s manufacturer, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, said in a news release that the Coast Guard commenced flight operations with a SeaGuardian from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Air Station Hachinohe on Oct. 19.
The American company said the high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft “will primarily perform Maritime Wide Area Search (MWAS) over the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean. Other missions will include search and rescue, disaster response, and maritime law enforcement.”
Photographs from plane-spotters in northern Japan showed the SeaGuardian carrying Japan Coast Guard markings along with the U.S. civilian registration N467SG, which was used for flight testing from General Atomics’ facility in the United States prior to delivery.
“SeaGuardian is the world’s premier asset for performing MWAS,” said Robert Schoeffling, vice president of international strategic development at GA-ASI. “We’re proud to support the Government of Japan’s policy to strengthen its maritime security.”
General Atomics announced in April 2022 that the Coast Guard had selected the SeaGuardian for an unmanned aircraft acquisition program. The selection followed validation trials involving the drone in Japan in 2020.
It’s unclear how many SeaGuardians were ordered.
The SeaGuardian features a multimode maritime surface-search radar with an inverse synthetic-aperture radar imaging mode, and an automatic identification system receiver. It is fully compliant with STANAG-4671, which is NATO’s airworthiness standard for unmanned aircraft, and it features a collision-avoidance radar to enable operations in civil airspace.