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Mojave RPAS completes RN carrier demonstration

A Mojave short take-off and landing unmanned aircraft lines up for the first landing aboard a Royal Navy Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier. (General Atomics)

The UK Royal Navy (RN) and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) have completed a first-of-its-kind trial of GA-ASI's Mojave remotely piloted air system (RPAS) from an aircraft carrier.

Undertaken off the US east coast on 15 November as part of the RN's Westlant 23 deployment, the demonstration saw the Mojave RPAS safely execute an unassisted take-off from, and recovery to, Queen Elizabeth-class (QEC) carrier HMS Prince of Wales. This proof-of-concept was performed to generate evidence in support of the RN's broader aspirations to introduce uncrewed air assets as part of what it terms the Future Maritime Aviation Force (FMAF).

Mojave is a variant of GA-ASI's MQ-1C Gray Eagle medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) RPAS adapted for short take-off and landing (STOL) operations. Improved STOL performance is achieved by enlarged wings with high-lift devices, a ruggedised undercarriage, and a 450 hp turboprop engine.

GA-ASI was earlier this year awarded a GBP1.3 million (USD1.6 million) proof-of-concept contract by the RN to undertake trials/experiments in order to demonstrate a threshold capability for a STOL RPAS. This initial demonstration is expected to inform a future scope of work to address a number of capability problem sets.

According to GA-ASI, the Mojave demonstrator was controlled by aircrew within a control station onboard Prince of Wales. The demonstration included a short take-off angled off the centreline, circuits, and approaches, ending with a landing back onto the flight deck over the stern. The RPAS was flown in a ‘clean' configuration without any payloads.

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