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Military Capabilities

USMC advancing shipborne 'Group 5' UAS concept

02 February 2017
Northrop Grumman's TERN, shown in a rendering, is a potential MUX solution. Source: DARPA

The US Marine Corps (USMC) has progressed with plans to furnish its Marine Air-Ground Task Forces (MAGTFs) with a shipborne 'Group 5' unmanned aircraft system (UAS) capability.

"We validated a Group 5 UAS requirement that's made it through the joint requirements process," Lieutenant General Jon Davis, the USMC's deputy commandant for aviation, told reporters during a 1 February breakfast meeting. He was referring to the shipboard-capable MAGTF Unmanned Expeditionary Capabilities (MUX) programme.

'Group 5' represents the same class as the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc MQ-9 Reaper and MQ-1 Predator, but MUX is to support marines by operating from ships and not requiring airfields or runways.

Lt Gen Davis said an Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) for MUX is scheduled for the third quarter of fiscal year 2017 (FY 2017), with a 'Milestone A' decision to begin development in FY 2020 and an initial operational capability in FY 2026.

According to the USMC's 2016 Aviation Plan, this MUX system (the MUX concept includes others) is meant to be "a multi-sensor, electronic warfare, C4 bridge, AAW [anti-air warfare], and strike capability at ranges complementary to MV-22 [Osprey tiltrotor] and F-35 [Lightning II fighter aircraft]". Lt Gen Davis said it could also include a refuelling capability.

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