Fastest Military Drones in the World - Owlcation - Education
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Fastest Military Drones in the World

Savio is a resident of Mumbai, India. Cars, bikes, and everything fast are his passion, and he writes about them on many sites.

Introduction

Drones serve multiple needs from civilian to military use but it is the military ones which would have raw power. In this article, we will look at the military drones and their use in various missions. The one advantage of having unmanned aircraft is that the designers need not worry too much about the “G” effects and push the aircraft to its absolute limit. The result is that the fastest drones are way faster than the military aircraft and military bombers.

Being unmanned also allows the drones to be more agile and quick (not fast). We will see many of them in this article.

So, let’s go.

List of Fastest Military Drones in the World

Note: Conversion factors used: Mach 1 = 767 mph or 1234.8 kmph | 1 mph = 1.61 kmph

DroneTop Speed

Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle (HTV) 2

Mach 22 [16,874 mph or 27,167 kmph]

SR-72

Mach 6 [4,602 mph or 7,409 kmph]

QF-16

Mach 2 [1,534 mph or 2,470 kmph]

BAE System's Taranis

>Mach 1 [767 mph or 1,234.8 kmph]

North Grumman X-47B

>Mach 0.91 [698 mph or 1,124 kmph]

Dassault Neuron

Mach 0.91 [698 mph or 1,124 kmph]

X-45A

Mach 0.75 [575 mph or 926 kmph]

Avenger [Predator C]

Mach 0.6 [460 mph or 741 kmph]

RQ-4 Global Hawk

Mach 0.51 [391 mph or 630 kmph]

MQ-9B SkyGuardian

Mach 0.32 [245 mph or 395 kmph]

Camcopter S-100

Mach 0.31 [238 mph or 383 kmph]

Super Heron

Mach 0.23 [176 mph or 284 kmph]

Rustom-H

Mach 0.18 [138 mph or 222 kmph]

MQ-1 Predator

Mach 0.18 [138 mph or 222 kmph]

1. Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle (HTV) 2

HTV 2

HTV 2

We just spoke about the fact that while designing a drone, the designers can let their hair loose, and looking at this particular drone we feel that they just let everything loose. The Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 will be designed for a Mach 20 and greater flight. This is close to the ballistic missiles’ range, the fastest man-made object within Earth’s orbit.

  • Aircraft: Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle (HTV) 2
  • Country: United States of America
  • Speed Record: Mach 22 [16,874 mph or 27,167 kmph]
  • Range: Designed for 10,000+ km [Expected]
  • Speed Record Created: April 2010 (HTV 1)
  • Total Built: 2

The need for such a drone comes from the United States’ plan to have an hour's strike capability anywhere in the world. An aircraft, therefore, flying at Mach 20 plus will be able to do it. Now the only aspect about HTV 1 and 2 is that they both couldn’t survive the heat generated by the flight and were destroyed roughly 9 minutes into the mission. The mission was originally envisaged to be for 30 minutes. However, the flight did achieve a speed of Mach 22 and did give tons of vital information for designing such super-hypersonic flights in the near future. We will have to watch this space.

2. Lockheed SR-72

SR - 72 Artist's Impression

SR - 72 Artist's Impression

Now, this is not the iconic SR-71 that we are speaking about and I did not get the call-number wrong. This is the SR-72, the younger brother of SR-71, so to say, though this aircraft will be unmanned and hence a drone. The SR-72 is expected to do a Mach 6 which is nearly twice that of the SR-71.

  • Aircraft: Lockheed SR-72
  • Country: United States of America
  • Speed Record: Mach 6 [4,602 mph or 7,409 kmph]
  • Range: Not Public yet
  • Speed Record Created: Not Public yet
  • Total Built: Expected to be in operation by 2030 (Numbers will be decided)

The SR-72 is planned to be an Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Aircraft along with strike capabilities. Its genesis puts a question mark on the cold-war era logic of avoiding aircraft for reconnaissance because of ICBMs and Cruise missiles. That was the reason for the XB-70 Valkyrie becoming history even before it entered production. If so, why would the SR-72 attempt to fill a gap that never was expected to be filled? Well, it appears that in the 21st century there is a huge gap between satellite surveillance, manned aircraft, and missiles. The SR-72 is supposed to fill that gap. So, we will see a successor to the SR-71 after all.

You can read here why XB-70’s development was dropped.

3. Lockheed Martin QF-16

F-16. Unmanned version QF-16

F-16. Unmanned version QF-16

The F-16 was a known name around the world for its fighter-bomber capabilities and there are many countries who are owners of this particular fighter. But what exactly is it doing on the list of drones? Well, once the F-16 was retired from the American Air Force’s arsenal, Boeing developed an unmanned version of it, which could do all possible maneuvers that the original aircraft could do. The only difference is that it is a UAV and not a drone. What’s the difference? Very subtle, an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) still requires pilots to remotely fly it, while the drones are on their own once they take-off.

  • Aircraft: Lockheed QF - 16 [UAV version]
  • Country: United States of America
  • Speed Record: Mach 2 [1,534 mph or 2,470 kmph]
  • Range: 550 km to 4000 km [depending on the mission]
  • Speed Record Created: 1976 and multiple times during the flight
  • Total Built: 4500+ [All Versions]

Though it is a UAV, the American Airforce is planning to use it as a target for other aircraft and drones being developed. It will be designated as QF-16 and will succeed the QF-4; the QF-4 was developed from the Phantom F-4, post its retirement.

Interestingly, the F-16 is still the first strike aircraft for most nations operating it and over here, the U.S. will be using it as a target for other aircraft; says a lot about the first strike aircraft that we can see from the U.S. arsenal in the near future.

4. BAE System’s Taranis

Taranis Model

Taranis Model

BAE System’s Taranis is an Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV) developed for the British Air Force. It will fly along with manned aircraft in future missions. The Taranis is designed for varying operational parameters like Intercontinental flight, ability to carry multiple ranges of weapons for both air and ground targets and be fast (moderately in this case).

  • Aircraft: Taranis
  • Country: United Kingdom
  • Speed Record: >Mach 1 [767 mph or 1,234.8 kmph]
  • Range: Capable of Intercontinental Flight
  • Speed Record Created: During Testing in 2013
  • Total Built: 1 Prototype. To be operational by 2030

The operational drones will be much faster with longer range. In fact, the Taranis may find its development parameters shared and improved with another drone – Dassault Neuron – which as part of an Anglo – French treaty will lead to the development of a joint UCAV. By the way, the Taranis is a stealth aircraft, as the readers would have already figured out.

5. North Grumman X-47B

fastest-military-drones-in-the-world

The X-47 B is a UCAV being developed for the American Navy and therefore, has more of Carrier based operations. This is one aircraft which is not only being looked at for strike operations but also for aerial refueling operations. Aerial refueling has been an Achilles Heel for the Navy and they would mostly depend on aircraft like the Super Hornet to carry external fuels for buddy refueling. The X - 47B is in competition for taking the role of an aerial refueller, which is still ongoing, with Boeing and Lockheed being the other players. However, the UCAV capabilities have been tested and X - 47 B is the chosen model for that role.

  • Aircraft: X – 47 B
  • Country: United States of America
  • Speed Record: >Mach 0.91 [698 mph or 1,124 kmph]
  • Range: 3,900+ km
  • Speed Record Created: During Testing between 2011 and 2015
  • Total Built: 2

The X-47 B, until 2015, had undergone such extensive testing with the Navy that they now intend to hold on to them for current operations. This is contrary to the original plan of retiring these prototypes post testing and have the operational ones come in by 2020. That, in a way, also speaks about the capabilities of the X-47B.

6. Dassault Neuron

Neuron in Paris Air Show

Neuron in Paris Air Show

The Dassault Neuron is an experimental UCAV being developed by France in collaboration with few countries. The intention is to come forth with a Eurofighter kind of consortium between countries. The ambitions behind the UCAV is quite high, expecting it to do better than any other UAV out there and having better range, payload, and capabilities. In the current experimental form following are the stats of the Neuron.

  • Aircraft: Dassault Neuron
  • Country: France
  • Speed Record: Mach 0.91 [698 mph or 1,124 kmph]
  • Range: Intercontinental Flight
  • Speed Record Created: During Testing in 2013
  • Total Built: 1 Prototype

One of the points about the name Neuron is that it reads as “nEUROn” to possibly denote Euro. Being an UCAV, pilots flying in manned fighters will control the Neuron. The Neuron is stealth UCAV and has a second version being developed along with the British. It is more like a Euro version and an Anglo – French version. Only time will tell if these models are going to be distinct or the same.

7. X-45A

fastest-military-drones-in-the-world
  • Aircraft: Boeing X - 45 A
  • Country: United States of America
  • Speed Record: Mach 0.75 [575 mph or 926 kmph]
  • Range: 2,400+ km
  • Speed Record Created: During Testing between 2002 and 2005
  • Total Built: 2 Prototypes

8. Avenger [Predator C]

Avenger [Predator C]

Avenger [Predator C]

  • Aircraft: General Atomic Avenger
  • Country: United States of America
  • Speed Record: Mach 0.6 [460 mph or 741 kmph]
  • Range: Intercontinental Range
  • Speed Record Created: During Testing between 2009 and 2017
  • Total Built: 3 Prototypes [Operationally Ready]

9. RQ-4 Global Hawk

fastest-military-drones-in-the-world
  • Aircraft: Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk
  • Country: United States of America
  • Speed Record: Mach 0.51 [391 mph or 630 kmph]
  • Range: 22,700+ km
  • Speed Record Created: During Service since 1998
  • Total Built: 50+

10. MQ-9B SkyGuardian

fastest-military-drones-in-the-world
  • Aircraft: MQ -9B SkyGuardian
  • Country: United States of America
  • Speed Record: Mach 0.32 [245 mph or 395 kmph]
  • Range: Intercontinental
  • Speed Record Created: During Testing till 2018
  • Total Built: To enter production by 2018 end

The SkyGuardian holds the record for endurance among the Predator Series of drones. It flew nonstop for 48 hours trumping the previous record of 46 hours. What's more, it even had more than 100 liters of reserve fuel left after the flight. Wonder how much longer it could have gone!

11. Camcopter S-100

fastest-military-drones-in-the-world
  • Aircraft: Schiebel Camcopter S - 100
  • Country: Austria
  • Speed Record: Mach 0.31 [238 mph or 383 kmph]
  • Range: 180 km
  • Speed Record Created: During Testing from 2003 to 2005
  • Total Built: 40+

12. Super Heron

fastest-military-drones-in-the-world
  • Aircraft: IAI Super Heron
  • Country: Israel
  • Speed Record: Mach 0.23 [176 mph or 284 kmph]
  • Range: 350 km
  • Speed Record Created: In 2014 by an upgraded Heron [Hence Super Heron]
  • Total Built: 100+

13. Rustom - H

fastest-military-drones-in-the-world
  • Aircraft: DRDO Rustom - H
  • Country: India
  • Speed Record: Mach 0.18 [138 mph or 222 kmph]
  • Range: 1,000 km
  • Speed Record Created: During Testing between 2009 and 2016
  • Total Built: Expected in Service by 2020

14. MQ-1 Predator

fastest-military-drones-in-the-world
  • Aircraft: General Atomics MQ-1 Predator
  • Country: United States of America
  • Speed Record: Mach 0.18 [138 mph or 222 kmph]
  • Range: 1,100 km
  • Speed Record Created: During Operations from 1995 - 2018 [Retired in 2018]
  • Total Built: 350+

Back to the Manned Base

The UAV, UCAV or the drones, as we may call depending on the role, are pretty cool technological advances. As we speak, they are already available in the civilian version which may one day carry our groceries or orders from Amazon home. When there are peaceful versions of any technology, I find it difficult to understand why we need a combative one? That said, till humanity finds the answer let’s drool over the speed these machines can achieve!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Savio Koman

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