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To further extend the versatility of its MQ-9B line of Remotely Piloted Aircraft, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) has announced that it will begin developing a short takeoff and landing (STOL)-capable MQ-9B aircraft, which includes the SkyGuardian® and SeaGuardian® models. GA-ASI is taking on this engineering effort to meet an evolving operational environment in contested expeditionary environments, the company writes in a press release

The company began STOL development in 2017 as part of its MOJAVE initiative. STOL capability was initially flown on a modified GRAY EAGLE extended range platform in 2021, but now the company will begin developing STOL on the MQ-9B, a platform already selected by the Royal Air Force, the Belgiun Ministry of Defence and the Japanese Coast Guard. MQ-9B STOL is to combine GA-ASI’s long-endurance UAS products with the versatility to execute missions in more austere locations, opening the operational envelope for commanders across all services and geographic locations.

The MQ-9B STOL configuration will consist of an optional wing and tail kit that can be installed in less than a day. The core aircraft and its sub-systems remain the same. 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