10 Fastest Military Drones in the World

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are planes with no crew or passengers on board. Instead, they could be remotely operated vehicles or automated “drones” (RPVs). UAVs play a part in many facets of aviation and can fly for extended periods at a controlled rate of speed and altitude.

They are primarily employed for surveillance in environments and terrains that are unsafe for troops to traverse. However, they are also weapons and have been credited with the deaths of alleged militants.

Here are 10 of the fastest military drones in the world.

10. MQ-9B SkyGuardian

Top Speed: Mach 0.32 (245 miles per hour)
 Country: United States of America
Role: Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance
 Manufacturer: approx. General Atomic Aeronautical Systems Inc.
 First Flight: September 25, 2018

MQ-9B SkyGuardianphoto source: thedefensepost.com

The MQ-9B SkyGuardian is a long-range, high-altitude, unmanned aircraft system (UAS) developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) for use by military and civilian
organizations. It is an evolution of the MQ-9 Reaper, initially designed for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions.

SkyGuardian can fly over the horizon via SATCOM for up to 40 hours in any weather and safely integrate into civil airspace, allowing combined military and civil authorities to give real-time situational awareness anywhere in the world—day or night.

Did You Know:

The SkyGuardian has the longest endurance among the Predator Series drones. A 48-hour nonstop flight beat the previous mark of 46 hours. It also had extra fuel after the flight—more than 100 liters.


9. RQ-4 Global Hawk

Top Speed: Mach 0.51 (391 miles per hour)
 Country: United States of America
Role: Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance
 Manufacturer: Northrop Grumman
 First Flight: February 28, 1998

RQ-4 Global Hawkphoto source: defense.gov

The RQ-4 Global Hawk is a high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft system (UAS) developed by Northrop Grumman for use by the US military and other countries. It is designed for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions and can fly at altitudes of up to 60,000 feet (18,288 meters) for up to 30 hours.

The Global Hawk has a wingspan of 130.9 feet (39.8 meters) and is powered by a single turbofan engine. It has been used in various military operations, including in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, and has also been used for civilian purposes, such as monitoring hurricanes and wildfires.

Did You Know:

The letters “R” and “Q” in the acronym RQ-4 stand for the reconnaissance and unmanned aircraft systems, respectively, used by the Department of Defense.

The series of specifically designed remotely piloted aircraft systems is called the “4”. The BACN-equipped aircraft’s communication configuration is indicated by the “E” in EQ-4.


8. Avenger [Predator C]

Top Speed: Mach 0.6 (460 miles per hour)
 Country: United States of America
Role: Developmental unmanned combat aerial vehicle
 Manufacturer: General Atomic Aeronautical Systems Inc.
 First Flight: April 4, 2009

Avenger [Predator C]photo source: ga-asi.com

The Avenger, also known as the Predator C, is a drone developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI). It is a medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) drone
designed for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions.

The United States Air Force operates the Avenger used in various military operations, including Afghanistan and Syria. It is a highly versatile drone that can be used for multiple tasks, including intelligence gathering, surveillance, target acquisition, and even strike missions, if equipped with appropriate weapons.

Did You Know:

The Avenger is based on the design of the earlier MQ-9 Reaper drone, but it is larger and more advanced, with a longer range and a higher endurance of up to 24 hours.


7. X-45A

Top Speed: Mach 0.75 (575 miles per hour)
 Country: United States of America
Role: Combat Strike
 Manufacturer: Northrop Grumman
 First Flight: May 22, 2002

X-45Aphoto source: nasa.gov

The X-45A was a prototype unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) developed by Boeing and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in the early 2000s. It had a wingspan of approximately 35 feet and was designed to fly at altitudes of up to 40,000 feet.

The X-45A was powered by a single jet engine equipped with sensors and payloads, including missiles and bombs. It was intended to be a stealthy, unmanned platform for
performing a variety of military missions.

The X-45A made its first flight in 2002 and completed a series of successful test flights over the following years. However, the program was eventually terminated, and the X-45A was retired.

Did You Know:

X-45As were sent to museums once the flight test program was finished, one to the National Air and Space Museum and the other to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base’s National Museum of the United States Air Force, where it was inducted on November 13, 2006.


6. Dassault Neuron

Top Speed: Mach 0.91 (698 miles per hour)
 Country: Multi-national
Role: Experimental stealth unmanned combat aerial vehicle
 Manufacturer: Dassault Aviation
 First Flight: December 1, 2012

Dassault Neuronphoto source: dassault-aviation.com

One interesting aspect of Neuron is that it reads as “nEUROn,” which could refer to the Euro. Pilots flying in manned fighters will control the Neuron because it is an unmanned aerial vehicle.

The Neuron is a stealth UCAV developed in collaboration with the British. It’s more akin to a Euro version and an Anglo-French version. Only time will tell whether these models will be distinct or identical.


5. Northrop Grumman X-47B

Top Speed: Mach 0.91 (698 miles per hour)
 Country: United States of America
Role: Unmanned combat aerial vehicle Technology Demonstrator
 Manufacturer: Northrop Grumman
 First Flight: February 4, 2011

Northrop Grumman X-47Bphoto source: thedrive.com

Northrop Grumman created the X-47B, an unmanned attack fighter-sized tailless aircraft, as a component of the U.S. Carrier Demonstration Program for Unmanned Combat Air Systems (UCAS) of the Navy.

The Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-220U engine and exhaust system power the X-47B. The aircraft has a range of approximately 2,100nm and a high subsonic speed of approximately 0.45M. The UCAS can fly to a maximum altitude of 40,000ft.

Did You Know:

The X-47B was the first drone to refuel in midair while autonomously landing on an aircraft carrier.


4. BAE Systems Taranis

Top Speed: Mach 1 (767 miles per hour)
 Country: United Kingdom
Role: Autonomous unmanned combat aerial vehicle
 Manufacturer: BAE Systems Military Air & Information
 First Flight: August 10, 2013

BAE Systems Taranisphoto source: ainonline.com

One of the largest unmanned aircraft in the world, the Taranis air vehicle is roughly the same size as the BAE Systems Hawk advanced jet trainer, which measures 11.35 meters long, 3.98 meters high, and has a wingspan of 9.94 meters.

The Taranis weighs roughly 8t based on the same assumptions. For comparison, the Hawk’s empty and takeoff weights are 4.45t and 9.1t, respectively.

The delta-winged Taranis aircraft has tricycle-style landing gear. An artificially created video depicts the system taking off from a runway made of concrete. The Raven delta-wing demonstrator unmanned air vehicle from BAE is comparable in size but not shape to the Taranis air vehicle.

Did You Know:

Rolls-Royce developed the engine for the Taranis. The Adour 951 engine, with a target maintenance interval of 4,000 hours, could power the Taranis. The Adour 951 is a descendant of the Adour 871 and offers 6,480 lb of thrust, an increase of 8% over the Adour 871.


3. QF-16

Top Speed: Mach 2 (1,534 miles per hour)
 Country: United States of America
Role: Full-scale aerial target
 Manufacturer: The Boeing Company
 First Flight: May 2012

QF-16photo source: digitalcombatsimulator.com

The QF-16 comes equipped with a modified F-16 airframe integrating a universal remote autopilot, auto-throttle, and unique support equipment with improved fault-isolation capabilities. Additionally, it has a payload control system, command telemetry system (CTS), visual augmentation system (VAS), and FTS (PCS).

The Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-200/220/229 or General Electric F110-GE-100/129 afterburning turbofan engines power the QF-16. The engine allows the aircraft to fly at supersonic speeds.

The FSAT retains the F-16 aircraft’s capabilities, including speed and roll. In addition, it can generate up to nine times the typical gravitational force during maneuvers.

Did You Know:

Boeing and the United States On September 23, 2013, the Air Force completed the first unmanned flight of the QF-16 Full Scale Aerial Target at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida.


2. SR-72

Top Speed: Mach 6 (4,602 miles per hour)
 Country: United States of America
Role: Hypersonic strategic reconnaissance aircraft
 Manufacturer: Lockheed Martin
 First Flight: Launching in 2023

SR-72photo source: ainonline.com

The SR-72 will be a hypersonic strategic reconnaissance aircraft with cutting-edge hypersonic technology. Two engines will power it.

The turbine engine will provide thrust until the aircraft reaches Mach 3, while the dual-mode ramjet will provide power for hypersonic flight. To reduce drag, the aircraft will employ a single inlet nozzle for both the turbine engine and the ramjet.

If the new aircraft is outfitted with hypersonic missiles like Lockheed Martin‘s High-Speed Strike Weapon, it should be able to attack targets anywhere on a continent in less than an hour (HSSW). In addition, the aircraft’s rapid speed ensures entry into restricted airspace.

Did You Know:

The SR-72 plane will be designed and built to replace Lockheed Martin’s SR-71 Blackbird, which retired from USAF service in 1998.


1. Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle (HTV) 2

Top Speed: Mach 22 (16,874 miles per hour)
 Country: United States of America
Role: Experimental hypersonic glide vehicle
 Manufacturer: Lockheed Martin
 First Flight: April 22, 2010

Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle (HTV) 2photo source: darpa.mil

Falcon HTV-2 is the fastest military drone in the world, with a top speed of Mach 22 (16,874 miles per hour). The need for such a drone stems from the United States’ desire to be able to launch an attack anywhere in the world within an hour.

Therefore, only an aircraft flying at a minimum Mach 20 speed can do it. As a result, HTV 1 and 2 can only be described as being destroyed nine minutes into the mission because they could not withstand the heat generated by the flight.

The initial plan called for a 30-minute mission. The trip did, however, reach a speed of Mach 22 and provided a ton of crucial information for creating future super-hypersonic flights.

Did You Know:

The HTV-2 has a unique method of propulsion that uses a solid rocket booster to launch it to high altitude and then relies on its internal propulsion system to glide through the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds. This allows it to reach velocities that would be impossible for a traditional aircraft to achieve.

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