General Atomics unveils Mojave STOL combat UAV for dirty strips and naval operations

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems unveiled a new medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned air vehicle (UAV) on 9 December that can take off and land in as little as 152m (500ft), including from dirt runways or aircraft carriers, Garrett Relm reports in Flight Global. “Mojave is designed with an eye toward dirt roads, hard-packed sand, dry riverbeds and other atypical runways”, GA-ASI.

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General Atomics unveils Mojave STOL combat UAV for dirty strips and naval operations General Atomics Aeronautical Systems "Mojave" UAV (Picture source: GA-ASI)

GA-ASI sees the UAV as useful for expeditionary warfare or naval operations – missions the US Department of Defense is eyeing in the Western Pacific. The UAV could also be used to support special operations missions, the firm says. General Atomics first flew a prototype of the short take-off and landing (STOL) aircraft “this summer”. A test campaign for the UAV is ongoing. The STOL aircraft borrows avionics and flight control systems from USAF’s MQ-9 Reaper and US Army’s MQ-1C Gray Eagle-Extend Range. It is built around the fuselage of the latter model.

The design’s short take-off capability means that the Mojave might be able to operate from US Navy’s nuclear-powered aircraft carriers or even smaller amphibious assault ships, which often carry US Marine Corps expeditionary units.

The UAV uses enlarged wings for STOL performance. It can fly for more than 25 hours and is powered by a 450hp (336kW) turboprop engine. The Mojave has a payload capacity of 1,630kg (3,600lb) and hardpoints for up to 16 Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles. The UAV can carry several sensors, including an electro-optical/infrared camera, a synthetic aperture radar, ground-moving target indicator and a signals intelligence payload.

General Atomics claims that its Mojave UAV should be considered for Special Operations Command’s (SOCOM’s) Armed Overwatch programme. SOCOM is indeed looking for 75 light-attack aircraft to perform close air support and armed reconnaissance for its ground troops. The command has so far excluded UAVs from the Armed Overwatch competition, focusing instead on manned fixed-wing aircraft, Garrett Relm reports.

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