General Atomics' Mojave can now takeoff and land on dirt

Short takeoffs were done in as little as 586 feet, while short landings were completed in 335 feet.
Jijo Malayil
GA-ASI's Mojave drone
GA-ASI's Mojave drone


The Mojave drone has been successfully tested on a dirt strip by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) to widen its range of operations. Mojave is a new offering from the Predator-series family of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) firm, which is ideal for armed overwatch, attack, and armed reconnaissance missions.

The tests, which were done at El Mirage, California, showed its ability to take off and land on unpaved surfaces helping to distinguish Mojave from typical fixed-wing aircraft, which rely on established runways. Such capability means that the drone can take off and land from various remote semi-improved areas while piloted from a typical ground control station or control laptop system.

The firm, which started its UAS journey 25 years ago with its MQ-1 Predator drone, has along the way introduced advanced versions in recent times like MQ-9 Reaper and MQ1C- Gray Eagle. Its fleet of drones claims to have completed over 7 million hours of operation, much of them in combat.

Short-Takeoff and Landing

The flying tests were also Mojave's first-ever Short Takeoff and Landing (STOL) on a dirt surface. Short takeoffs were done in as little as 586 feet, while harsh landings were completed as low as 335 feet. According to GA-ASI, the tests were primarily aimed at gathering terrain inputs utilizing Mojave rather than accomplishing the shortest lengths feasible.

According to the firm, this additional capacity increases the aircraft's adaptability and allows it to operate in previously judged unsuitable locations for UAS missions. "Mojave can do this while retaining significant advantages in endurance and persistence over Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) and human-crewed aircraft," said David R. Alexander, president of GA-ASI, in a blog post. 

An advanced proposition

Mojave, which adheres to Modular Open System Approach (MOSA) principles, uses GA-ASI's Grey Eagle 25M program's modernized avionics, data linkages, sensor integration, and laptop ground control station. Mojave also features more enormous wings with high-lift devices, a combat-proven 450-HP turbine engine, and ruggedized landing gear, making it excellent for semi-improved conditions with little ground assistance.  

Such capabilities will enable forward-basing operations without requiring regular airport runways or infrastructure, allowing it to be swiftly deployed from and recovered to non-traditional discrete sites. "Mojave can fit into a C-130 and be rapidly assembled and employed to extend operational reach. These innovations make Mojave the perfect UAS to perform reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (RSTA), attack, and contested logistics support missions," said the firm. 

Its capacity to carry up to 16 Hellfire missiles or equivalents makes it more potent on the field, double the power of the MQ-1C Grey Eagle, other weapons launched effects, and logistical replenishment pods. The firm has also contracted with Briain's Royal Navy to test its Mojave drone on its aircraft carrier.

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