Nov 17, 2014
US Marines in market for Reaper-sized UAS
Marine Aviation Plan 2015 is the first planning document to mention a requirement for a medium- to high-altitude, long-endurance UAS, which brings to mind the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-9 Reaper operated by the US Air Force.
The Marines have been the lone hold-out among US military services against operating General Atomics platforms, relying so far on hand-launched aircraft that are well suited to gathering airborne intelligence for small units in expeditionary environments.
Beginning in fiscal year 2016, the USMC will gradually retire its fleet of 20 Northrop Grumman EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare aircraft. The service intends to replace them with an operational concept called Marine Air-Ground Task Force Electronic Warfare (MAGTF-EW).
Introduction of the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey, which allows Marines to operate at vastly greater distances than traditional rotorcraft, has created a need for unmanned intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) systems that can keep up with them.
The USMC is looking for systems that can take off from land and be controlled from a ship that can go wherever a Marine Expeditionary Unit's two dedicated Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules aircraft can go.
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems plans to offer a UAS that can access any airfield on which a KC-130 can land and take off, generally a runway of between 3,000ft (914m) and 3,500ft in length, Hardison says. The company has already worked with the USAF to modify the MQ-9, including increasing engine power.
The Marines already operate the Boeing-Insitu RQ-21 Integrator, which can be launched and recovered from a ship or on shore.