General Atomics will develop a short takeoff and landing (STOL) MQ-9B unmanned aircraft to operate in more challenging locations.
The capability will reportedly shorten the length of runway needed from 1,067 meters (3,500 feet) to less than 305 meters (1,000 feet) without compromising its core capabilities.
The capability will be added to both the SkyGuardian and SeaGuardian models.
Takeoff Without Catapult
The STOL capability will allow the aircraft to operate from an aircraft carrier or big-deck amphibious assault ship without a catapult.
Also, the aircraft’s foldable wings will allow the aircraft to park on deck or in the hangar bay like other naval aircraft.
“The MQ-9B STOL configuration will consist of an optional wing and tail kit that can be installed in less than a day,” the company explained.
“Operators can perform the modification in a hangar or on a flight line, delivering a capability that otherwise would require the purchase of a whole new aircraft.”
Being Pitched to US Navy and Marines
General Atomics first began developing the STOL capability as part of the Mojave aircraft initiative in 2017 and then flew a STOL-capable Gray Eagle Extended Range platform in 2021.
The MQ-9B has already been selected by the Royal Air Force, the Belgium Ministry of Defence, and the Japan Coast Guard.
The company says that the additional capability will also attract interest from the US Navy and Marine Corps.