General Atomics Aeronautical Systems unveiled today a new unmanned aerial system based on the MQ-9 Reaper and MQ-1C Gray Eagle and capable of carrying up to 16 Hellfire missiles.
Called the “Mojave,” the aircraft is designed to focus on short-takeoff-and-landing capabilities and bolstered firepower, according to a company news release. Breaking Defense first reported news of the drone last month.
A prototype of the UAS first flew over the summer, the release noted. Thus far, General Atomics has invested “more than $20 million in company research dollars on building out this prototype,” company spokesman C. Mark Brinkley told Inside Defense in an email.
Though it didn’t name potential military or international customers, the release said the aircraft’s capabilities make it suitable for performing “armed overwatch, attack and armed reconnaissance missions.”
“STOL capability increases the number of employment options available to Mojave, potentially including aircraft carrier-based options, unlocking naval missions or sea-based support for special operations forces,” the release states.
Brinkley said officials have shown the UAS “to various customers privately” while “discussing the potential it offers in expeditionary environments.” Though he cautioned discussing particulars of those conversations would be premature, he touted Mojave’s flexibility and capability as key assets that have “drawn a lot of interest.”
The new UAS sports a 3,600-pound payload capacity, the release notes, and can carry up to 16 AGM-114 Hellfire or equivalent missiles. The MQ-9 Reaper traditionally can only fly with four Hellfire weapons across two stations, though the Air Force last September conducted its first flight test of the aircraft carrying eight.