General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) completed multiple takeoffs and landings with its Mojave Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) on a dirt airfield near El Mirage, California, on August 1, 2023.
The capability to take off and land on unimproved surfaces distinguishes Mojave from conventional fixed-wing aircraft, which rely on prepared runways. This new capability increases the aircraft’s versatility and allows it to operate in previously unsuitable areas for UAS operations.
David R. Alexander, president of GA-ASI, stated that the ability to execute missions in austere locations with runway independence expands the operational envelope for commanders across all services and geographic areas and that Mojave can do this while retaining significant endurance and persistent advantages over Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) and manned aircraft.
These flying tests were Mojave’s first attempt at a Short Takeoff and Landing (STOL) on a dirt surface. Short landings were completed in as little as 326 feet of space, and short takeoffs were performed in as little as 586 feet. Mojave terrain feedback was the primary objective of the tests, not achieving the shortest distances feasible.
Mojave is a STOL-capable technical demonstrator descended from the MQ-1C Grey Eagle and MQ-9 Reaper, making it a versatile expeditionary UAS. Mojave utilises the Grey Eagle 25M program’s modernised avionics, data connections, sensor integration, and laptop ground control station per Modular Open System Approach (MOSA) principles. Mojave’s enlarged wings with high-lift devices, combat-proven 450-horsepower turbine engine, and ruggedised landing gear make it suitable for semi-improved surfaces with a small footprint for ground support.
Mojave offers alternatives for forward-basing operations without requiring typical airport runways or infrastructure, allowing it to be rapidly deployed from and recovered at non-traditional discrete locations. Mojave is transportable on a C-130 and can be swiftly deployed to extend operational reach. These advancements render Mojave the ideal UAV for Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition (RSTA), attack, and contested logistics support missions.
Mojave was designed to be swiftly deployable and expeditionary, with features such as a ruggedised airframe that enables operations in harsh environments and weather that allows flight in more expansive environmental windows. Due to its spacious wing storage, it can carry up to 16 Hellfire or comparable missiles, assorted munitions, Launched Effects (LEs), or logistical resupply modules. Mojave is equipped with a multi-sensor suite consisting of Electro-Optical/Infrared (EO/IR), Synthetic Aperture Radar/Ground Moving Target Indicator (SAR/GMTI), Electronic Intelligence (ELINT), and Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) to support land or maritime missions across Joint All-Domain Operations (JADO).