General Atomics Unveils Its Mojave Drone That Can Carry 16 Hellfire Missiles

It has short take-off and landing capabilities as well.
Ameya Paleja
Mojave during its testing in the summer.General Atomics -ASI

Last month, we had covered that General Atomics - Aeronautical Systems Inc., GA-ASI, was testing the prototype of a new drone capable of carrying 16 Hellfire missiles. The company had then declined to comment but has now officially unveiled the details of the drone it calls Mojave. 

When it comes to drones used by the U.S. military, GA-ASI needs no introduction. Its MQ-1 Predator was introduced over 25 years ago and has since taken the form of MQ-9 Reaper and even the MQ1C- Gray Eagle. As the U.S. military looked forward to adopting drones with vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capabilities, GA-ASI needed to quickly adapt its drones. 

However, as GA-ASI President David Alexander said during the press briefing at the unveiling, their test systems ended up 'fighting physics' incapable of taking useful payloads. The company then ditched the VTOL plans to develop a drone that could perform short take-off and landing (STOL).

Last month, we had reported that the new drone could be airborne with a runway as short as 800 feet (~244 m). However, the Mojave could end up taking flight even with a 500 feet runway, perhaps even lesser with a lighter configuration, The Drive claims.

Borrowing from the successes of the MQ-1C Gray Eagle and MQ-9 Reaper, GA-ASI has given Mojave enlarged wings, leading-edge slats, and double-slotted flaps, Defense News reported from the briefing. Aiding the shorter take-off is a Rolls-Royce turboprop engine with a 450-hp rating, which is much more than the 205-hp engine that powers the Gray Eagle. 

During the testing conducted during the summer, the drone could even land at a speed of 45 knots, Alexander claimed. GA-ASI has gone a step further and provided the drone with an extra-strong landing gear with floatation wheels, giving it the ability to land in rough areas and unfriendly terrain.

The product specifications accessed by The Drive show that the drone has six underwing hardpoints rated to carry heavier loads, which provide the real estate to carry 16 Hellfire missiles. However, as we had noted in our last post, the additional weight of the firepower would considerably affect the endurance of the drone, something GA-ASI confirmed to The Drive.

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Even the take-off ground roll increases to a little over a 1000-feet with 12 Hellfire missiles. On the other hand, with an intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) payload, the drone could take off under 400 feet for a three-hour mission or stay airborne for over 25 hours with a full runway takeoff, The Drive reported. 

While the only missing feature of the drone would be the ability to be launched from a transporter plane, we know GA-ASI is working on that separately for DARPA as Project Longshot

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