The largest uncrewed aircraft ever launched from a Royal Navy aircraft carrier has paved the way for the next generation of UK naval air power.

Codenamed ‘Mojave’, the specially-modified aircraft – operated remotely by a ‘pilot’ at a computer terminal – has taken-off from and safely landed back on board HMS Prince of Wales in a unique trial off the East Coast of the USA.

The drone can carry four Hellfire missiles.

No crewless machine its size – nine metres long, with a wingspan of 17 metres (six metres wider than an F-35B Lightning stealth fighter) and weighing more than 1½ tonnes fully loaded – has ever flown from an aircraft carrier outside the US Navy before.

The trial off the coast of Virginia further unlocks the potential of the UK’s Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, demonstrating how modern uncrewed air systems can operate alongside fifth-generation crewed aircraft like the Lightnings.

“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”.

He continued: “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.

Months of planning by experts from the Royal Navy, General Atomics and HMS Prince of Wales’ crew went into the trial – one of several involving crewless aircraft and F-35s this autumn to push the boundaries of operations involving the UK’s two carriers.

“My team and I are excited and proud to be the first to launch and land a Mojave from an aircraft carrier,” said Commander Martin Russell, in charge of air operations aboard HMS Prince of Wales.

“During a deployment centred around experimentation and expanding the envelope of the Queen Elizabeth class, this is one of the highlights.

“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.”

HMS Prince of Wales is now conducting intense training and trials activity with the US Marine Corps before returning home to Portsmouth next month.

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George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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Mike Reeve
Mike Reeve (@guest_766458)
7 months ago

Could Boeing’s “Ghost Bat” UCAV become the future too, mirroring the RAF’s potential aquesition as loyal wingmen assisting Typhoons?

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins (@guest_766460)
7 months ago
Reply to  Mike Reeve

I remember posting this at the time so clearly a consideration. JANES 24 FEBRUARY 2023 Official rendering shows Ghost Bat ‘loyal wingman’ landing aboard Queen Elizabeth-class carrierby Gareth Jennings “An official rendering shown for the first time at an event on 21 February depicts a Boeing MQ-28 Ghost Bat ‘loyal wingman’ landing aboard a UK Royal Navy (RN) Queen Elizabeth (QE)-class aircraft carrier. Revealed by an official who was presenting under the Chatham House Rule, the computer-generated image shows the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) being recovered by means of an arrester hook, and gear not currently fitted to the carrier. While Boeing… Read more »

Andy reeves
Andy reeves (@guest_766506)
7 months ago
Reply to  Mike Reeve

Shame ihat own heavy duty drone was cancelled,taranis looked like real deal worth . Googling the videos of it.

Last edited 7 months ago by Andy reeves
Louis
Louis (@guest_766540)
7 months ago
Reply to  Andy reeves

Taranis was a tech demonstrator and as such couldn’t have been cancelled.

Andy reeves
Andy reeves (@guest_766621)
7 months ago
Reply to  Louis

It was allegedly involved in further tests for full military uses last year, but as is the way with this kind of thing, nothing has been said for over twelve months Dragonfire is another subject we’re hearing noth about despite millions of the taxpayer’s money being thrown into the projects.

Peter tattersll
Peter tattersll (@guest_766625)
7 months ago
Reply to  Andy reeves

No it was a test drone and nothing else

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky (@guest_766630)
7 months ago

I have repeated that time and again on here and as recently indeed as last week. Its technology lives on in the Tempest programme and beyond and as I said Magma certainly was still being flown a few years back. The Bae autonomous flight system was once mentioned earlier this year as integral to the GhostBat project though I haven’t heard that confirmed so don’t know if that is in fact true. We are still some way from deciding what a drone like Taranis is best used for considering how Complex and expensive it is, so producing it beyond prototypes… Read more »

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins (@guest_766641)
7 months ago
Reply to  Andy reeves

Very interssting, I wonder what has been happening in the background away from prying eyes? It crossed my mind when a tender was put out to industry for EMALS a while back. “Nearly three years after it first flew, key aspects of the all-British Taranis UCAV (unmanned combat aerial vehicle) demonstrator remain classified. But further insights into the flight test program were revealed recently by three senior participants from BAE Systems, which is leading the effort. They spoke to the Royal Aeronautical Society’s Flight Test Group in London. “Taranis has pushed the boundaries of technology, especially in autonomy, flight control,… Read more »

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins (@guest_766643)
7 months ago
Reply to  Louis

I posted this further down which seems to imply that it is still a consideration at the very least.  June 8, 2023 5:23 PM According to Col Kelly, one strand of FMAF – known as Project Ark Royal – is exploring options for the phased introduction of aircraft launch and recovery equipment to enable the operation of high-performance uncrewed strike and support systems, and potentially fixed-wing crewed aircraft. “We are looking to move from STOVL to STOL [short takeoff and landing], then to STOBAR [short takeoff but arrested recovery] and then to CATOBAR [catapult-assisted takeoff but arrested recovery]. We are… Read more »

Peter S
Peter S (@guest_766513)
7 months ago
Reply to  Mike Reeve

The problem with operating heavier, faster UCAVs is that they will need a launch and recovery system – EMALS- to be installed on the carriers. Mohave doesn’t.
For the RN, the most important need is for a replacement AEW system, with Crowsnest out of service likely by 2030. Seaspray weighs @ 87kg but whether Mohave has sufficient power to operate it, or something equivalent, I’m unsure. The altitude and endurance of Mohave would be a major improvement.

grizzler
grizzler (@guest_766544)
7 months ago
Reply to  Peter S

I thought they were looking at EMALS on the Carriers – for drones at least.
Or was that just another trial there was had no real intention of implemnenting due to costs?

Peter S
Peter S (@guest_766559)
7 months ago
Reply to  grizzler

No idea. Can’t find any mention of the outcome of the RFI anywhere.

grizzler
grizzler (@guest_766593)
7 months ago
Reply to  Peter S

It probably went somethng along the lines of:
“How much…??!!”
Followed by the buzz of the neasrest paper shredder

Dern
Dern (@guest_766603)
7 months ago
Reply to  Peter S

It’s called Project Ark Royal, Navy Lookout had a article on it. Basically the RN is inestigating a mini EMALS for drones, with potential to upgrade to something heavier in the 30s or 40s (which got a lot of CATOBAR fans very exited on twitter and YouTube because “omg the rn is admitting a mistake and going catobar and buying f35c” was the obvious takeaway.)

Quentin D63
Quentin D63 (@guest_766606)
7 months ago
Reply to  Peter S

I think it’s called “project Ark Royal”?

Quentin D63
Quentin D63 (@guest_766607)
7 months ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

Whoops, Dern’s said the same below.

Quentin D63
Quentin D63 (@guest_767094)
7 months ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

Today…. he’s above… Lol 😁

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins (@guest_766642)
7 months ago
Reply to  grizzler

Updated: June 8, 2023 5:23 PM U.K. Considering Adding Catapults, Arresting Gear to Aircraft Carriers According to Col Kelly, one strand of FMAF – known as Project Ark Royal – is exploring options for the phased introduction of aircraft launch and recovery equipment to enable the operation of high-performance uncrewed strike and support systems, and potentially fixed-wing crewed aircraft. “We are looking to move from STOVL to STOL [short takeoff and landing], then to STOBAR [short takeoff but arrested recovery] and then to CATOBAR [catapult-assisted takeoff but arrested recovery]. We are looking at a demonstrable progression that spreads out the financial… Read more »

Jim
Jim (@guest_766646)
7 months ago
Reply to  grizzler

It’s an ongoing program called project Ark Royal, these drone tests are the first stage. They will also be considering an EMALS launch system with a single catapult running up the side of the ramp and an arrested recover system. This is looking at drones up to 25,000 pounds so something like Boeing MQ25 or Ghost-bat are possible.

Quill
Quill (@guest_766638)
7 months ago
Reply to  Peter S

Well they could always incorporate a new energy source onto the drone, maybe a module that incorporates the radar and a small sized generator. Endurance would probably be impacted but probably significantly better than crowsnest.

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky (@guest_766679)
7 months ago
Reply to  Quill

I wonder if RR new electric/hybrid motor system that recently ran for the first time with reportedly drone use and improving range in mind, is envisaged for a platform like this.

Jim
Jim (@guest_766645)
7 months ago
Reply to  Peter S

MQ9 already has seaspray 7500E radar incorporated and General Atomics are already stating it has an AEW capability. Leonardo also states seaspray is capable of arial tracks. It’s a pretty advanced AESA radar so I’m sure their is a bunch of stuff it can do. Working in tandem with F35 it’s probably a pretty effective AEW/AWACS capability compared to crowsnest with MQ9 providing altitude and persistence and F35 filling in the rest with its sensor fusion and data link.

Major Bloodnok
Major Bloodnok (@guest_792862)
4 months ago
Reply to  Peter S

AEW: Has anyone designed a drone for this rôle? Like a robo-gannet. Also, for really long loiter time, what about navigable balloons, or hybrid craft which can self-inflate when they have reached their mission location? With a good stealth cover, they could remain on stake-out for weeks or even months. It would be cheaper than a satellite.

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins (@guest_766538)
7 months ago
Reply to  Mike Reeve

I wonder if we can expect to see these added to the Mojave in the future? You start to get a picture of how they might just be used. “The smart weapon systems will be equipped with MBDA’s Orchestrike, a collaborative combat system designed to allow communication between multiple missiles and unmanned aircraft so they can act as a swarm. “The Smart Glider and Cruiser are air-to-ground missiles and are dedicated for future combat with its swarming capabilities with AI-embedded capabilities for smart trajectory to deceive the air defense system and cloud combat to communicate with the control center and… Read more »

Mr Bell
Mr Bell (@guest_766462)
7 months ago

These drones aren’t particularly stealthy or fast. They are easy prey for an intercepting fighter to shot down. As an enduring surveillance and overwatch platform though they are useful.
The RN needs a more capable loyal wingman platform then this but I think the Mojave does have a role, especially as a one way suicide mission against a heavily defended target where low altitude terrain following approach might be required.

Steve
Steve (@guest_766504)
7 months ago
Reply to  Mr Bell

It depends on the mission. Realistically we are unlikely to be involved in a war that needs carriers in the lifetime of the QEs, but we are likely to be in wars where sending in the carriers provides good PR. Carriers launching drones to attack terrorists/rogue factions of failed nations gives good PR for the navy, at a lot less cost than using f35s.

Robert Blay
Robert Blay (@guest_766521)
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve

So you think the carrier’s are just for PR? Maybe take a look at what carrier’s have been used for over the last 30 odd years.

Steve
Steve (@guest_766623)
7 months ago
Reply to  Robert Blay

I’m looking! Why not extend that to 60 years. Outside the Falklands they have not been needed. Used yes, but needed no, as in all them wars land based jets have been used also, at which point the carriers weren’t needed.

Peter tattersll
Peter tattersll (@guest_766627)
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve

Are you for real

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky (@guest_766631)
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve

Were used regularly in the Middle East conflicts. A lot of their tasks would have been difficult to achieve with land based platforms due to strategic, geographic and political considerations though not impossible in an ideal combination of those factors which rarely occurs in that region.

Last edited 7 months ago by Spyinthesky
Robert Blay
Robert Blay (@guest_766978)
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve

They are very much needed. Have you any idea how many sorties US Navy carrier aircraft performed over Iraq or Afghanistan. Thousands. That’s how many. Lots of thousands.

Steve
Steve (@guest_767703)
6 months ago
Reply to  Robert Blay

And considering they had friendly air bases available, how many of the thousands were actually needed? Using a capacity because you have it and shows strength is very different from needing it.

Quentin D63
Quentin D63 (@guest_766610)
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve

Steve, i like your optimism, but it may very very well be the opposite. Who knows how things in the Gulf, Indo Pacific and anywhere else that might go? We’ll have our drones and drones will be used back against us too. Like to see some more defensive armament on these carriers to complement the Phalanx/ECM and that will have a deeper engagement range., maybe 2-5km+.

Steve
Steve (@guest_766620)
7 months ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

Most major nations that we could possibly go to war with have nukes, which means it won’t happen. Most wars we have been in during our history has been about economics and making people rich, going against a nuclear nation won’t achieve that.

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky (@guest_766632)
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve

That’s very simplistic and by ‘history’ you one presumes mean recent history or it doesn’t make sense. Equally you may certainly have conflicts with nuclear powers without a nuclear event, otherwise Ukraine wouldn’t still exist or indeed India, Pakistan or China, Vietnam with conflicts between various of those countries in modern times.

Quentin D63
Quentin D63 (@guest_766637)
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve

Russia, China, trying for territorial creep, spreading influence, having nukes is not stopping them and not stopping us in the West doing the same either! Just takes one crazy idiot to press a button! Having a nuclear deterrence is in the back cupboard for last resort. Having strong conventional abilities also acts as a detterence of sorts but you’ve got to keep up with your potential adversaries.

Coll
Coll (@guest_766964)
7 months ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

I can’t see Phalanx on the carrier currently, sadly.

Quentin D63
Quentin D63 (@guest_767097)
7 months ago
Reply to  Coll

The carriers look really underdone in defensive armaments. What would it cost to get a couple of RAM type launchers modified for Starstreak/LMM – ER, even AIM132s, linked in with the Phalanx’s on the Carriers? Or adapt the SEA Ancilia launchers to do the same?

Pongoglo
Pongoglo (@guest_767615)
6 months ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

Or just get a move on in fitting the MSI 30mm DS30M they were both meant to have. If we can’t afford all four mounts the QEC are fitted for then just two each , port forward and starboard aft would be a win for me.

Robert Blay
Robert Blay (@guest_768061)
6 months ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

Or use a T45. The perfect tool for fleet defence. A carrier task group with two T45, two T23’s, later T26 is the most advanced integrated air defence system available. Then add In F35 capability. Stealth, AMRAAM/ASRAAM capability. And it would take one very capable and determined enemy to get through that lot. An enemy that doesn’t currently have the capability to match. Or come close.

Quentin D63
Quentin D63 (@guest_768321)
6 months ago
Reply to  Robert Blay

Have to respectfully disagree with you here Robert. Key assets like the carriers should have their own defensive abilities to the max and not be largely dependent on AAWs, T23s and subs. Decoy launchers missing, RWS missing, anti torpedo defences missing, no Dragonfire, okay likely it has very good ECM, neighbouring T45s, and 3 Phalanx’s. Seems very naked still. Could easily be better. Just look at the armaments of other carrier countries for comparison.

Last edited 6 months ago by Quentin D63
Andy reeves
Andy reeves (@guest_766511)
7 months ago
Reply to  Mr Bell

Survivability of drones has been exposed by the war in the Ukraine it looks like they are easily shot down so thats a problem to solve

Peter tattersll
Peter tattersll (@guest_766626)
7 months ago
Reply to  Mr Bell

Rubbish

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky (@guest_766634)
7 months ago

Why rubbish, larger drones in Ukraine have indeed proved vulnerable. The true picture will need to be evaluated over time. An American report a few years back claimed that even stealthy attack drones might not be able to deliver their mission if expected to go deeper into sophisticated enemy airspace than say an F-35 is expected to do. The jury is still out and the US is still couscous on commuting to such drones, the best solutions still a matter of debate.

Jim
Jim (@guest_766647)
7 months ago
Reply to  Mr Bell

Any AWACS platform is easy bait for a fighter. The idea is not letting a fighter get near it.

Brom
Brom (@guest_766464)
7 months ago

Brilliant i think we need 2 dozen of them, persistent aew as well as comms nodes and a cap of sorts for asymmetric threats

Last edited 7 months ago by Brom
Andy reeves
Andy reeves (@guest_766508)
7 months ago
Reply to  Brom

I bet the production rate of building them will be faster than the F 35.

Robert Blay
Robert Blay (@guest_766523)
7 months ago
Reply to  Andy reeves

You would hope so for a unmanned single prop engine drone compared to a 5th gen supersonic VSTOL all aspect stealth strike fighter.

Jim
Jim (@guest_766648)
7 months ago
Reply to  Andy reeves

Actually the F35 production line is massive in comparison but much less of a queue for MQ9. The US is trying to stop its orders.

Andy reeves
Andy reeves (@guest_766510)
7 months ago
Reply to  Brom

Get a folding wing version and the QE . might carry a hundred aircraft.

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky (@guest_766635)
7 months ago
Reply to  Andy reeves

Have you seen this, it was recently tested in testing weather conditions off of the East coast of the US on a carrier with ‘UK and other allied onlookers in attendance’. Surprised it wasn’t tried out on PofW though still early days for this concept. The design concept however seems so obvious once you see it in action. Can’t wait to see what roles bigger versions might have beyond logistics.

link

Last edited 7 months ago by Spyinthesky
Rob
Rob (@guest_766466)
7 months ago

I would imagine that sounding like this equipped with the right sensors and radars could be very useful as an AWACS platform. No crew fatigue to worry about, less fuel required, so longer endurance.

Jim
Jim (@guest_766649)
7 months ago
Reply to  Rob

Also a massive service ceiling giving the radar a wide horizon.

Tomartyr
Tomartyr (@guest_766471)
7 months ago

What can it carry aside from Hellfire?
If it can carry standoff weapons I see a useful role as dispersed missile trucks for the F-35 to direct weapons from.

Tomartyr
Tomartyr (@guest_766474)
7 months ago
Reply to  Tomartyr

Looks like it could potentially carry Sea Venom or SPEAR

Tomartyr
Tomartyr (@guest_766475)
7 months ago
Reply to  Tomartyr

Looks like it could potentially carry Sea Venom, SPEAR and maybe meteor.

DaveyB
DaveyB (@guest_766480)
7 months ago
Reply to  Tomartyr

You have to bear in mind the more the Mojave carries, the less duration it will have. General Atomics say that it can carry 12 Hellfires. If can the multi-mode seeker weigh 49kg each, which is a total of 588kg. Well below its max payload. However, this reduces the aircraft’s duration to only 3 hours.

Mojave_Data_Sheet_120721.pdf (ga-asi.com)

DaveyB
DaveyB (@guest_766476)
7 months ago
Reply to  Tomartyr

It has a payload of about 1600kg, which is lower than the base model. The standard Protector RG1 has 9 hardpoints under the fuselage and wings, Mojave uses 7, one under the fuselage and 3 under each wing. It will still give you a number of load-out options. Protector is earmarked for Brimstone and Paveway, plus I believe APKWS.

Last edited 7 months ago by DaveyB
Jonno
Jonno (@guest_766514)
7 months ago
Reply to  DaveyB

Perfect for CAP and carrying Meteor perhaps? Think Big! FAA fights where others fear to tread.

Jon
Jon (@guest_766526)
7 months ago
Reply to  DaveyB

Its payload is severely limited by length of runway. Mojave off a long runway can lift 16 Hellfires and still have enough fuel for a mission. According to the article, this can only carry four. I had hoped it would be more. Realistically, it’s ISR only.

The question will be, what does that mean for the payload of a STOL Protector off the same runway?

DaveyB
DaveyB (@guest_766541)
7 months ago
Reply to  Jon

I have a link pending audit as response to another comment. But its a pdf from General Atomics (GA) with the aircraft’s specifications. It shows that the Mojave will have 7 hardpoints (3 per wing and 1 under fuselage), compared to the Protector’s 9. The weapons payload drastically affects the aircraft’s flight duration. GA quote with a payload of 12 Hellfires, its flight time is reduced to 3 hours. Which is significantly less than Protector. But that is the penalty you pay for using a STOL specific wing! Looking at the Navy Lookout video. The Mojave took off using about… Read more »

Jon
Jon (@guest_766629)
7 months ago
Reply to  DaveyB

To take off with 12 hellfires you need 1000 ft of runway to get a couple of hours of mission.

There was an article in the War Zone entitled “General Atomics’ Rough Field-Capable Mojave Drone Breaks Cover”. In it they published a chart of runway length vs mission time. With around 800ft of runway the QE would have to use wind over deck to generate extra lift to get 12 hellfires off the deck. So 600kg would be marginal, not 1600kg.

Jim
Jim (@guest_766651)
7 months ago
Reply to  Jon

I think carriers normally use wind over the deck for all launches. Getting 25plus knots extra boost is important for almost any launch.

Jim
Jim (@guest_766650)
7 months ago
Reply to  Tomartyr

The final version is basically our guardian UAV with a wing kit so it can already carry Paveway IV and Brimstone.

RobW
RobW (@guest_766472)
7 months ago

I thought Mojave was just Protector, converted using a kit supplied by General Atomics. As such, I assumed that any ops from the carriers would come from the fleet were are already procuring. Is that all codswalop, as the article seems to imply it is a related but distinct aircraft?

DaveyB
DaveyB (@guest_766478)
7 months ago
Reply to  RobW

Yes, that’s correct, The Mojave is a MQ-9B Sky Guardian (Protector in RAF speak) with a different wing and sturdier landing gear. The Standard MQ-9B uses a high aspect ratio wing (as per a glider), which gives it the really good fuel economy due to the lower drag at high altitudes. The Mojave’s wing is a purposely designed for short take off and landing (STOL). It is significantly thicker, but also uses a shorter wingspan. This wing incorporates double slotted fowler flaps, leading edge slats and the ailerons can also droop to generate more lift, which reduces the stall speed… Read more »

Peter S
Peter S (@guest_766580)
7 months ago
Reply to  DaveyB

No. Mohave is a different model from the MQ 9 STOL development. The latter would allow the standard Sky Guardian/ Protector to be converted to STOL operation using a removable wing kit.
The Mohave has a 25 hour endurance, capacity for 16 Hellfires. With that max payload, take of distance rises to 1000 ft.

Jon
Jon (@guest_766530)
7 months ago
Reply to  RobW

Mojave is a smaller UAV (MTOW 7000lb), a little over half the size of Protector (MTOW 12,500 lb). It doesn’t have an MQ number as the Americans aren’t buying it. Protector is the UK name for MQ-9B, also known as Sky Guardian or Sea Guardian depending on the fit out. The Protector’s STOL kit is still under development.

They are both very much in the same Reaper family.

DaveyB
DaveyB (@guest_766537)
7 months ago
Reply to  Jon

Jon, the Mojave is a MQ-9. It keeps the centre fuselage, v-tail and engine, but changes the wings and fits heavier duty undercarriage. As it’s meant to operate from rough fields and roads. The smaller wing saves a lot of weight.

Jon
Jon (@guest_766548)
7 months ago
Reply to  DaveyB

Sorry, Davey, but it isn’t. Mojave is an upscaled MQ-1C Grey Eagle. It sits between the MQ-1C and the MQ-9B in size. General Atomics are perfectly clear and Wikipedia hasn’t had it totally wrong for the last few years while nobody noticed. The first flight of Mojave was in 2021. The MQ-9B STOL was first announced in 2022 as moving into development. It hasn’t flown yet. Here’s a quote on MQ-9B STOL from GA: “MQ-9B STOL integrates a wing and tail kit inspired by the smaller Mojave, enabling the larger and higher performance MQ-9B to operate from more expeditionary bases… Read more »

Last edited 7 months ago by Jon
DaveyB
DaveyB (@guest_766572)
7 months ago
Reply to  Jon

Hi Jon, that’s interesting as I was told that the Mojave, uses the main fuselage of the MQ-9, but adds the STOL wings and beefier undercarriage.

If GA say its a smaller airframe and they’re the manufacturer, who am I o disagree. Though I will be having words with one of my colleagues.

It’ll be interesting to see if the fully “navalised” version gets folding wings.

Jon
Jon (@guest_766589)
7 months ago
Reply to  DaveyB

The RN are supposedly looking to go for the larger MQ-9B STOL, which is indeed depicted with folding wings, but the conversion kit isn’t available yet. To be honest, I’m a little surprised at that. The development was announced in May 2022, eighteen months ago, and as it’s “just” a wing and tail kit, I thought I’d have heard about trial flights before now, but it’s still all CGI. Mojave may be acting as proxy for tests. Navy Lookout did an article not long after the announcement, and as I recall neither of us were bowled over. You thought it… Read more »

grizzler
grizzler (@guest_766595)
7 months ago
Reply to  Jon

So these Mojave drones may just be a substitute for a bigger guy then?

Jon
Jon (@guest_766602)
7 months ago
Reply to  grizzler

Yep. The same Protectors the RAF have bought, with a wing and tail kit to make them STOL. According to the blurb you can unbolt the full sized wings and tail and put the new ones on reasonably quickly.

There’s nothing to say the RN won’t fall in love with Mojave and decide to buy that instead, but it makes a lot more sense for training and spare part commonality if they go for a STOL version of Protector.

ga-asi.com/remotely-piloted-aircraft/mq-9b-stol

Mr Bell
Mr Bell (@guest_766561)
7 months ago
Reply to  DaveyB

Turkish LPHD Andalou with its flight deck packed with Jet and piston powered UAvs

https://twitter.com/WarshipsIFR/status/1649697102463631361

Mr Bell
Mr Bell (@guest_766557)
7 months ago
Reply to  Jon

The Turkish navy have been trialling a series of UAvs including a jet powered UAV from their LPHD. If a flight deck as long and as wide as that can work with a jet powered UAV then the QEC flight deck definitely can.

https://www.euronews.com/2023/04/11/turkish-navy-launches-uav-and-helicopter-carrier-tcg-anadolu

Warships IFR did a good write up on this issue a few months back but I cant find the link to share.

ABCRodney
ABCRodney (@guest_766477)
7 months ago

When I look at this it actually gives me some hope for the future of our Carriers and increasing their capabilities. The announcements regarding the future of Carrier born UAV and how it can be incrementally adopted and these trials are encouraging. OK it isn’t an extra 40+ F35B but it’s a typical U.K bit of out of the box and joined up thinking and it is affordable. The next logical step is to start and design the incremental reconfiguring of the QE’s for heavier UAV so that heavier UAVs can be launched and safely recovered fully loaded. And that… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli (@guest_766481)
7 months ago

Where is the footage!?

Coll
Coll (@guest_766488)
7 months ago

Navallookout has a video.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli (@guest_766500)
7 months ago
Reply to  Coll

Thanks, I saw it on UKDJ Twitter feed.

Coll
Coll (@guest_766515)
7 months ago

Great stuff.

Jonathan
Jonathan (@guest_766497)
7 months ago

Very useful especially for the lower intensity work.

Rfn_Weston
Rfn_Weston (@guest_766499)
7 months ago

Loaded up with Brimstone, they would be ideal for tackling fast attack craft & missile boat swarms at distance. Especially in the gulf areas.

Easier to launch and recover than fast jets. Cheaper also.

Can’t see it happening though.

Toby J
Toby J (@guest_766522)
7 months ago
Reply to  Rfn_Weston

Why ever not? The main worry is that these get fixated on as an “alternative” to f35, and numbers get cut accordingly. Agree with your point re fast boat swarms though

Francis Cook
Francis Cook (@guest_766501)
7 months ago

A couple of notes. 1) General Atomics quotes length 9m, wingspan 16m (not 17m, as in the article), weight a little over 3,000 kg.
2) Although it was manned, the WW2 Mosquito performed carrier deck operations. On 25th March 1944, Eric “Winkle” Brown the chief naval test pilot at RAE Farnborough at the time, did deck-landing and take off trials aboard HMS Indefatigable. The mosquito had length 13.5m, wingspan 16.5m and weight roughly 8,000 kg.

Andy reeves
Andy reeves (@guest_766505)
7 months ago

Incredible how unmanned technology is advancing so far so fast if drones of this kind could soon be strong enough and payload capable of say, carrying a storm shadow, then the strike power of a carrier group could be increased ten fold especially in carrier type ships operated by the Spanish and Italian navy.im waiting for when these technologies can be oper for air to air. Combat. They’ll be cheaper than a F 38 that’s for sure. The QE class fighting aircraft numbers could be increased a great deal higher the F35 numbers 🔢 today maybe the combat number of… Read more »

Mr Bell
Mr Bell (@guest_766555)
7 months ago
Reply to  Andy reeves

The Turkish navy already has 3-4 UAvs that could perform strike operations, they are being trialled on their new LPHD.
Reports their LPHD could deploy upwards of 30 UAvs, 10 high performance fighter type and 20 lower end surveillance and light attack.
A ship the size of the QE could easily match those numbers and still have 24 F35Bs+ 14 Merlins onboard.

Mr Bell
Mr Bell (@guest_766563)
7 months ago
Reply to  Mr Bell

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSPMNxtoQ_U
Turkish Navy UAV carrier concept

Andy reeves
Andy reeves (@guest_766590)
7 months ago
Reply to  Andy reeves

Folding wing versions of sea deployed could enhance the power of a u.k CCSG especially if they are cruise missile capable

grizzler
grizzler (@guest_766507)
7 months ago

So if we compare the cost/size and capabilty of these to the F35B how does this compare? Im not saying are they as good obviously they are not – Im just thinking how many would provide a useful capabilty on the carriers vs. how much space they would take up and therefore remove from the available space for F35B”s..when/if we get more of those. Will the procurement of a sufficent number of these to provide a credible ‘force’ detract too much from the availlabilty/capability of the F35Bs – if that makes sense. What sort of numbers of these (and or… Read more »

Andy reeves
Andy reeves (@guest_766512)
7 months ago
Reply to  grizzler

I hope that they’re harder to shoot down.

DaveyB
DaveyB (@guest_766587)
7 months ago
Reply to  grizzler

As purely a theoretical example to augment the F35s. You would also need a drone used as a tanker, an AEW platform and obviously the loyal wingman. The RAF have been showing images of a pair of loyal wing controlled from a single F35/Typhoon/Tempest. Which would give a base number of normal F35 wing of 24 aircraft an additional 48 loyal wing man aircraft. To be honest to match the F35s performance, these aircraft won’t be that much smaller. So will there be sufficient space for all these aircraft plus Merlins and the additional support aircraft? However, if we say… Read more »

grizzler
grizzler (@guest_766600)
7 months ago
Reply to  DaveyB

Cheers for the reply DaveyB something to cogitate over.
I suppose it’s a case of how much these sorts of totals cost , and could we then get enough to fully kit out both carriers – at a push or for when the bomb (literally) goes up?

Joe16
Joe16 (@guest_766516)
7 months ago

Good stuff, glad it actually happened! I think the best application for this, given the size and performance characteristics, is on surface search and ASW- as far as I know the Sea Guardian is also essentially the same airframe. That can carry surface search radar and E/O sensors, sonobuoys and (I think) torpedoes in the Stingray class. At a guess it would be able to function as a data node. Even with the less efficient wing, I presume that the Mojave/Sea Guardian could stay up 20+ hours, which is obviously a lot better in terms of endurance on station than… Read more »

Jonno
Jonno (@guest_766518)
7 months ago
Reply to  Joe16

This is an epoc making advance and could mean a complete rethink of a lot of stuff. Clear decks for one.

Toby J
Toby J (@guest_766520)
7 months ago

Just a pet idea of mine, and those in the business will be able to tell me if I’m raving mad:
Could a T31 etc. hull be capable of conversion to a small carrier for the carriage of this sort of drone? I’m envisaging that it would fulfill what the Invincible a were designed to do, as anti-sub stooges in the North Atlantic but also fulfill their own separate strike role. Understand there would be limitations over takeoffs but could ramp and/or catapult counteract this? The landing on PoW looked very short, and the takeoff not much more.

Spenno
Spenno (@guest_766528)
7 months ago
Reply to  Toby J

Take a quick peak at the “UXV Combatant” concept ship by BAE from a while ago. With how far along EMALS and UAV/UCAV technologies have progressed since then, I could absolutely see an updated version, possibly based on the T26 hull (not sure if T31 would have the space to accommodate such an adaptation), as being a truly lethal and effective ship.

Of course our own government would never fund such a thing either way, but I do think it would be doable.

Toby J
Toby J (@guest_766550)
7 months ago
Reply to  Spenno

That seems to be a sort of “zumwalt with a flight deck and well deck” idea. I was thinking more along the lines of “through deck frigate” with Sea Ceptor, 57mm. Based on type 26 for the T32 requirement?

Toby J
Toby J (@guest_766579)
7 months ago
Reply to  Toby J

In the escort carrier tradition, with 4-6x Mojave and 1-2x Proteus. 2 lifts, small ramp. Either T26 or T31 with huge active stabilisers

Jon
Jon (@guest_766594)
7 months ago
Reply to  Toby J

I like the idea of an escort carrier, or even a through-deck MRSS. However, you don’t want to use a frigate base for that. If you are going to build to naval rather than commercial standards, you might as well build a Mistral and have done.

Toby J
Toby J (@guest_766599)
7 months ago
Reply to  Jon

Thank you for the MRSS idea. I’m sure BMT would be happy to produce some CGI of the small end of Ellida turned into a through-deck escort carrier

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky (@guest_766713)
7 months ago
Reply to  Toby J

Again though very early stages for the concept, a design of this type might fit very well in a vessel of the type you are thinking of to maximise performance with space.

Transwing

LINK

Last edited 7 months ago by Spyinthesky
Toby J
Toby J (@guest_766724)
7 months ago
Reply to  Spyinthesky

Thanks, the link didn’t work but I looked up Transwing. That looks brilliant, how did you find them? The mechanism is so elegant and simple, you’ve made my day. Yes, those would be perfect. Quadcopter turns into conventional fixed-wing smoothly and easily. Can easily imagine one with a couple of Brimstone buzzing off a flight deck.

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky (@guest_766749)
7 months ago
Reply to  Toby J

I always keep an eye NewAtlas they have a wealth of new developments in every sphere of science, technology and engineering. Yes long way to go in their scaling up but the video is impressive I feel. Once you see the idea you think why hasn’t it been done before, it’s a near perfect solution advantages of an aircraft with minimum footprint while landing and take off and without having to have folding wings. I presume the art of making it transform so naturally in flight would be the prime complexity in terms or aerodynamics and potential changes in centre… Read more »

Last edited 7 months ago by Spyinthesky
Toby J
Toby J (@guest_766967)
7 months ago
Reply to  Spyinthesky

And the test in which they landed on a QR code 😁.
They would be very useful for extending the ASW umbrella of the frigates, especially in a containerised version for T26 mission bay or River container spots. Smaller footprint than helicopters and almost the range of fixed wing.

Paul T
Paul T (@guest_766536)
7 months ago
Reply to  Toby J

Err no I very much doubt it.

maurice10
maurice10 (@guest_766524)
7 months ago

By the time the QE Class go to the scrap yard 80% of all aircraft take-offs will probably be a drone or unmanned F35s. Considering most aircraft could have 70% AI operability, one shivers at just how advanced these systems might be.

Andy reeves
Andy reeves (@guest_766525)
7 months ago

I think the QE’S WILL END UP WITH DRONES ALING THE LINES OF THE TURKISH KIZILELMA DRONES, but fitted with air to air capabilities these already have a folding wing version.

Paul T
Paul T (@guest_766529)
7 months ago

These Drones are quoted as costing £30 million each, I think I’d rather spend that money on more F35b and the Capability that brings.

Mr Bell
Mr Bell (@guest_766567)
7 months ago
Reply to  Paul T

Theyve only built 10-15 of the Kizilelma class drones so far, once the numbers take off and there are hundreds of them I can see unit cost dropping to circa £5 million each- what isnt known is their air to air or strike capabilities vs an F35B. Would 15 of these drones be equivalent to an F35B, in terms of effect on target and mission/ sortie rates.

Tom
Tom (@guest_766605)
7 months ago
Reply to  Paul T

Hi… How much is an F35b?

Mr Bell
Mr Bell (@guest_766611)
7 months ago
Reply to  Tom

+£110 million a piece. Eye wateringly expensive

Deep32
Deep32 (@guest_766618)
7 months ago
Reply to  Mr Bell

Hi fella. Think that may well be an old estimate of costs. Currently the average unit costs for Lot 15-17 aircraft is assessed as $75million. That’s the airframe and mission kit minus the engine.
A rough breakdown is;
F35A -$70million.
B- $80 mi!!ion.
C – $90million.

That is obviously down to different numbers ordered, and doesn’t take into account any increase which will be applied with TR3 & BLK 4 upgrades as and when.

Paul T
Paul T (@guest_766613)
7 months ago
Reply to  Tom

F35b are not cheap,Drones are good for uncontested Airspace,they will have their uses but in contested Airspace Survivability will be a major issue.

Jon
Jon (@guest_766533)
7 months ago

I think we should also be trialling the Bayraktar TB3. If we want a long endurance ISR and MQ-9B STOL is too pricey, perhaps smaller, cheaper and more pleantiful might be the way to go.

Ian
Ian (@guest_766608)
7 months ago
Reply to  Jon

Hi Jon…. Is there a reason for us not buying O.T.S from Turkey… they seem to have a lot of U.A.V experience
Many Thanx Ian

Jon
Jon (@guest_766677)
7 months ago
Reply to  Ian

Wasting cash we don’t have on something we don’t need? It’s way too soon to charge in with a sizeable purchase from anyone, even when pressed to consider “the fight tonight”. We don’t know how best to fulfil what we need, nor what we can get out of these types of drones, so trialling is necessary. There’s an argument to say get something up in the air so you learn for the next iteration, but the lessons learnable are more limited with COTS/MOTS where you don’t control the programme. Mojave is a land-based prototype being tested on a carrier for… Read more »

Last edited 7 months ago by Jon
Tom
Tom (@guest_766556)
7 months ago

On the plus side, these things will not cost anywhere near a human piloted version.

Unfortunately, this is the only plus I can personally see with this particular drone.

As a ‘test’ of a large uncrewed aircraft, it’s a great result. The aircraft itself is way too large, and would probably be ‘downed’ by a smaller drone.

Steve M
Steve M (@guest_766588)
7 months ago

As long as it can be operated with 24 x F-35’s and 8 Merlins onboard sounds perfect for continuous surveillance if it can carry decent radar and say 4 meteor and 4 brimestone it can stay aloft all day an provide watch and first response to air or surface threats while the alert jets are launched. it def not useful for full strike/counter air against hostile but as patrol / immediate response over CSg perfect

Ron
Ron (@guest_766640)
7 months ago

Its good to see the developmant of drone capability for the RN. Yes Mojave is a step forward. However I would like to see what the MQ-9B STOL could bring to the carriers. The issue with Mojave is the following. with a 500ft takeoff it will have seven hours duration in the ISR mode. They will never be able to take of from the carriers with a full weapons fit, eg 12 Hellfires as that would need a 1000 ft runway. (See Link)https://www.ga-asi.com/products-services So the only way I can see drones with a useful payload or endurance using our carriers… Read more »

TonyB
TonyB (@guest_766657)
7 months ago

A useful complement to George’s item here, is the in-depth look at the Mojave trials on Prince of Wales at the War Zone.

Quentin D63
Quentin D63 (@guest_767722)
6 months ago

Watching the Mojave take off made me think of the Sopwith Camel for some reason. Must have been remembering my younger airfix model days. Do you reckon it’ll be able to carry torpedos?