General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) unveiled on December 9 a new unmanned aircraft system (UAS), which it has dubbed the Mojave after the Californian desert area in which the company’s development and production facilities are located. The air vehicle is the latest development of the original Predator A/B series, which has spawned the Predator XP, Reaper, SkyGuardian, and Gray Eagle. A Mojave prototype flew in the summer, said GA-ASI, and is “continuing to demonstrate exceptional short-field performance and other unique qualities.”
Based on the avionics and flight control systems of the MQ-9A Reaper and MQ-1C Gray Eagle-ER, the Mojave has a 450-hp Rolls-Royce M250 turboprop engine and large wings with a broader chord than early GA-ASI designs. High-lift devices are also incorporated—leading-edge slats, flaps and drooping ailerons—that combine with the increased wing area to give short takeoff and landing (STOL) capability, and also the ability to haul heavier loads. A beefed-up undercarriage caters for operations from unimproved surfaces.
Mojave offers a 3,600-pound (1,633-kg) payload, allowing it to carry up to 16 Hellfire missiles under its broad wings. Forward-firing guns, such as the Dillon Aero M134D-H Minigun, can also be carried. It can be equipped with electro-optical/infrared sensor turret for surveillance and target acquisition, Eagle Eye synthetic aperture radar/ground moving target indicator sensor, and a signals intelligence suite, for use over both land and water.
The driving force behind the Mojave was to create a UAS that can be forward-based at austere stripes, away from the long runways and infrastructure typically required for operations of previous Predator iterations. The air vehicle’s STOL characteristics allow it to take off in less than 1,000 feet from an unimproved strip in “clean” surveillance mode and still offer more than 20 hours endurance, with a maximum of 27 hours possible from a longer runway. In armed ISR mode the Mojave could get airborne in 1,600 feet with 12 Hellfires to provide more than nine hours of on-call armed support for ground forces.
The new UAS retains the capability of previous Predator vehicles, but by adding short/rough-field performance it is primarily aimed at supporting deployed operations in the field—notably attack, surveillance, and armed overwatch for special forces. The vehicle’s STOL characteristics also permit it to be operated from aircraft carriers.
“We’re proud to bring these extraordinary capabilities to our Predator line of UAS,” said GA-ASI CEO Linden Blue. “We are providing the ground force with a long-endurance, armed overwatch UAS that can quickly reload weapons at austere sites, located close to the conflict zone. This revolutionary design, based on 7 million flight hours of UAS experience, increases expeditionary employment options—making Mojave a real game-changer.”