Royal Navy uncrewed aircraft trial marks European first
A specially-modified aircraft codenamed ‘Mojave’, measuring nine-metres long and featuring a wingspan of 17 metres, has became the largest crewless machine ever flown from an aircraft carrier outside of the US Navy.
The aircraft was operated remotely at a computer terminal by a ‘pilot’, taking off and safely landing back onboard HMS Prince of Wales, a Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier, during a trial off the US east coast.
The remotely operated vehicle measures six-metres wider than an F-35B Lightning stealth fighter and weighs more than 1.5 tonnes when fully loaded.
Produced by General Atomics, Mojave is a version of the MQ1C Gray Eagle aircraft which has been adapted for take-off and landing on short runways. It can perform long endurance missions from medium altitude and has a maximum air speed of 167 knots.
‘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 US,’ said Rear Admiral James Parkin, Royal Navy Director Develop.
Rear Adm Parkin claimed that the trial heralded ‘a new dawn’ in how the Royal Navy would ‘conduct maritime aviation’.
‘[This is] another exciting step in the evolution of the Royal Navy’s carrier strike group into a mixed crewed and uncrewed fighting force,’ he added.
The trial off the coast of Virginia intended to demonstrate how modern uncrewed air systems could operate alongside fifth-generation crewed aircraft.
Commander Martin Russell remarked: ‘Integrating the Navy Develop and General Atomics personnel into the Prince of Wales team was key to enabling such a large Remotely Piloted Air System to operate from the deck during this trial, with the capability feeling like a glimpse into the future of these ships.’
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