General Atomics launches STOL capable MQ-9B
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) has announced it plans on developing a short take off and landing (STOL) capable version of the MQ-9B MALE UAV.
The manufacturer suggested in a 10 May statement that the reason behind the decision was to 'meet an evolving operational environment in contested expeditionary environments.'
Referencing the advantages of STOL integration, GA-ASI noted that operators would be able to undertake missions in austere environments, while the new capability will be made possible by virtue of an optional wing and tail kit that can be installed in under a day.
'Operators can perform the modification in a hangar or on a flight line, delivering a capability that otherwise would require the purchase of a whole new aircraft,' said GA-ASI.
'MQ-9B STOL, which is part of GA-ASI’s Mojave series of unmanned aircraft, also presents an opportunity for future operations aboard an aircraft carrier or big-deck amphibious assault ship.
'The wings fold so that MQ-9B STOL could be parked on the deck or in the hangar bay, just like other naval aircraft. When it’s time to launch, operators will start the aircraft, unfold the wings, and take off over the bow without the need for catapults.'
The manufacturer also said 'it believes' the US Navy and USMC will take note of the new capability because it
'opens the door to persistent and long-range Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) operations.'
Orders for the MQ-9B include the UK, Belgium and Japan, with the manufacturer having previously agreed on a sale with Australia, until a surprise cancellation was confirmed on 1 April.
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