Largest uncrewed aircraft ever launched from a Royal Navy aircraft carrier tested
The largest uncrewed aircraft ever launched from a Royal Navy aircraft carrier, codenamed Mojave, has taken-off from and safely landed back on board aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales.
The crewless aircraft is nine meters long, with a wingspan of 17 meters and weighs more than 1,5 tonnes fully loaded. The unit was operated remotely by a ‘pilot’ at a computer terminal and tested off the East Coast of the USA.
“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,” said Rear Admiral James Parkin, Royal Navy Director Develop, whose team planned the trial.
“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.”
The Royal Navy’s Second Sea Lord, Vice Admiral Martin Connell, said embracing autonomy was “the next logical step to ensuring that the Royal Navy can continue to fight and win in an increasingly-complex operating environment”.
“With so many international partners interested in the results of these Mojave trials on board HMS Prince of Wales, I am delighted that we are taking the lead in such exciting and important work to unlock the longer-term potential of the aircraft carrier and push it deep into the 21st Century as a highly-potent striking capability.”
The Royal Navy has two decades’ experience in operating pilotless aircraft from its ships, but the Fleet Air Arm’s existing systems – such as the hand-launched Puma, and the new Peregrine miniature helicopter which enters service in January – are designed for short-range surveillance operations on land and at sea.
Mojave – a version of the MQ1C Gray Eagle aircraft adapted for short take-off and landing from runways even shorter than the flight deck of Queen Elizabeth-class carriers – is a much larger and more complex aircraft.
Produced by US company General Atomics, Mojave is capable of performing numerous long endurance missions from medium altitude.
It’s from the same family of aircraft as the Royal Air Force’s new Protector RG Mk1 aircraft, such ‘medium altitude long endurance’ remotely piloted aircraft are capable of conducting long-range surveillance and strike missions over many thousands of square miles.