General Atomics’ Mojave Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) demonstrated a first-of-its-kind short takeoff and landing (STOL) capability on the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales.
Royal Navy Director Develop, Rear Admiral James Parkin, whose team planned the trial, said: “The Mojave trial is a European first – the first time that a Remotely Piloted Air System of this size has operated to and from an aircraft carrier outside of the United States. The success of this trial heralds a new dawn in how we conduct maritime aviation and is another exciting step in the evolution of the Royal Navy’s Carrier Strike Group into a mixed crewed and uncrewed fighting force.”
This event, which occurred on November 15, 2023, off the U.S. East Coast, marked the European debut of a Remotely Piloted Air System of this size operating on and from an aircraft carrier.
Controlled by ship-based aircrew from an onboard control station, the Mojave showcased its STOL capabilities through takeoff, circuits, approaches, and a successful landing back onto the carrier. GA-ASI CEO Linden Blue commended the Royal Navy for embracing this unprecedented capability, emphasizing the potential for diverse applications in multi-domain naval operations.
Mojave, initially designed for STOL operations at unprepared landing sites, shares components with GA-ASI’s Gray Eagle model. Plans include incorporating a STOL wing set option for the larger MQ-9B aircraft, including models like SkyGuardian, SeaGuardian, and the new Protector RG Mk 1 delivered to the UK Royal Air Force. The MQ-9B STOL version is being considered by navies, including the Royal Navy, operating aircraft from large flat-deck warships without catapults and arresting gear.
Rear Admiral James Parkin, Director Develop at the Royal Navy, highlighted the significance of the Mojave trial as a European first, representing a new era in maritime aviation. The success of this trial signifies a transformative step in the evolution of the Royal Navy’s Carrier Strike Group into a mixed crewed and uncrewed fighting force.
Equipping UAS with STOL capability enhances their versatility, enabling operations in previously challenging environments, such as landing on and taking off from aircraft carriers. MQ-9B STOL retains the capability to carry payloads and execute missions equivalent to SkyGuardian and SeaGuardian, covering maritime surveillance, Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), Airborne Early Warning (AEW), and surface strike missions.