Codenamed ‘Mojave’, the specially-modified aircraft – operated remotely by a ‘pilot’ at a computer terminal – has taken-off from and safely landed back on board HMS Prince of Wales in a unique trial off the East Coast of the USA.
No crewless machine its size – nine metres long, with a wingspan of 17 metres (six metres wider than an F-35B Lightning stealth fighter) and weighing more than 1½ tonnes fully loaded – has ever flown from an aircraft carrier outside the US Navy before.
The trial off the coast of Virginia further unlocks the potential of the UK’s Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, demonstrating how modern uncrewed air systems can operate alongside fifth-generation crewed aircraft like the Lightnings.
“The Mojave trial is a European first – the first time that a Remotely Piloted Air System of this size has operated to and from an aircraft carrier outside of the United States,” said Rear Admiral James Parkin, Royal Navy Director Develop, whose team planned the trial.
“The success of this trial heralds a new dawn in how we conduct maritime aviation and is another exciting step in the evolution of the Royal Navy’s carrier strike group into a mixed crewed and uncrewed fighting force.”
The Royal Navy’s Second Sea Lord, Vice Admiral Martin Connell, said embracing autonomy was “the next logical step to ensuring that the Royal Navy can continue to fight and win in an increasingly-complex operating environment”.
He continued: “With so many international partners interested in the results of these Mojave trials on board HMS Prince of Wales, I am delighted that we are taking the lead in such exciting and important work to unlock the longer-term potential of the aircraft carrier and push it deep into the 21st Century as a highly-potent striking capability.”
— Defensehere (@defensehere_en) November 20, 2023