USMC makes first operational flight in Middle East using GA-ASI MQ-9A drone
On March 20, 2020, U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) pilots and sensor operators from Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1 (VMU-1) conducted their first operational flight of an MQ-9A Reaper Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) in the Middle East. The multi-sensor reconnaissance-equipped MQ-9A UAS produced by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) has provided crucial support to USMC’s forward operations on the battlefield.
GA-ASI MQ-9A Reaper MALE UAS (Picture source: General Atomics)
With the oversight of the GA-ASI team, the VMU-1 “Watchdog” crews took control of a Company Owned/Company Operated (COCO) MQ-9A supporting forward deployed Marines. This USMC achievement comes shortly after surpassing 7,000 hours of COCO flight operations since September 2018. “This achievement represents a unique milestone and example of the Marine Corps’ legacy of innovation,” said David R. Alexander, president, GA-ASI. “As a partner with the Marine Corps, we look forward to expanding the role of Medium-altitude, Long-endurance (MALE) UAS in support of maritime littoral missions.”
VMU-1 leases MQ-9A Reaper aircraft to fulfill its urgent needs request for persistent Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) in Afghanistan. GA-ASI has been working with VMU-1 as the USMC transitions its COCO MQ-9A contract to a Government Owned/Government Operated (GOGO) contract in the coming year.
The GOGO capability fulfills the Commandant’s directive for USMC Group 5 persistent ISR capability with strike. VMU-1 will be the testbed and incubator to provide crucial information, lessons learned, requirements, tactics, techniques, and procedures that will aid in the USMC efforts for the successful acquisition and fielding of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Expeditionary (MUX) Group 5 capability.