- The British Royal Navy has announced that it has achieved a milestone that only the United States has so far achieved.
- He flew a large drone from the deck of HMS Prince of Wales, Britain’s newest aircraft carrier.
- A specially modified plane took off and landed back on deck during tests this week.
The Royal Navy has announced that a large, specially modified drone has successfully flown from Britain’s newest aircraft carrier, a milestone that only the United States has so far achieved.
During trials off the coast of Virginia, a remotely piloted drone – a Mojave unmanned aerial vehicle – took off and landed aboard the Queen Elizabeth-class HMS Prince of Wales as the ship underwent training with U.S. forces, the Royal Navy said Friday statement.
The Mojave drone is based on the MQ-1C Gray Eagle and MQ-9 Reaper and is adapted for short takeoffs and landings. They are almost 30 feet long with a 56-foot wingspan.
The UK said that no crewed system of this size “has ever before flown from an aircraft carrier outside the US Navy”, and the trial also showed how drones could operate alongside crewed aircraft such as F-35 5th Fighter jets generation stationed on board the British carrier.
“The success of this trial heralds a new dawn in the way we conduct naval aviation and represents another exciting step in the evolution of the Royal Navy’s carrier strike group into a mixed-manned and uncrewed combat force,” Rear Admiral James Parkin, who helped plan the trial, said. in a statement.
A video shared on social media by the official HMS Prince of Wales account shows Mojavewhich is capable of performing long-duration missions and can be armed with up to 16 Hellfire missiles launched from the deck of an aircraft carrier.
General Atomics, which developed the Mojave, Gray Eagle and Reaper, said the demonstration took place on Wednesday and included takeoffs, orbits, approaches and landings. “Seeing Mojave successfully operate in this environment opens up countless new opportunities to use our aircraft to support multi-domain maritime operations,” the company he wrote in a statement. He added that by giving unmanned systems the ability to perform short takeoffs and landings, aircraft can operate in areas that would not otherwise be possible.
Royal Navy Vice-Admiral of the Lord of the Second Sea, Martin Connell, said unmanned systems were the “next logical step” in ensuring naval forces have the ability to fight in an “increasingly complex operational environment”.
This is not the first time the Royal Navy has used a drone from its ship – it has been doing so for years – but Mojave is much larger and more complex than other systems. The Mojave trial is also one of several groundbreaking first drone and aircraft trials that have taken place aboard HMS Prince of Wales in recent weeks during its ongoing deployment.
In September, a drone delivered cargo to an aircraft carrier and then returned to the British mainland. The following month, an F-35B – a variant of the fighter that has a short takeoff and can make vertical landings – took off from the ship’s deck fully loaded in so-called “beast mode.”
“In a deployment focused on experimentation and expanding the scope of the Queen Elizabeth Class, this is one of the highlights,” Cmdr. Martin Russell, who oversees air operations aboard HMS Prince of Wales, said in a statement after this week’s Mojave test. He said the ability feels like “a glimpse into the future of these ships.”
HMS Prince of Wales entered service in 2019, two years after HMS Queen Elizabeth, which is the flagship of the British fleet. The two conventionally powered ships – the largest ever built in the UK – can carry two dozen F-35B jets and several Merlin submarine-hunting helicopters.
With the successful Mojave test, HMS Prince of Wales follows in the footsteps of the United States Navy, which has long operated large unmanned aerial vehicles on its warships. These include reconnaissance and surveillance drones, as well as remotely operated helicopters and aerial refueling systems.