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USMC to acquire two Reaper UAVs

The US Marine Corps (USMC) is to acquire a pair of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9A Reaper medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and related systems.

In a notification posted on the US government procurement website on 12 April, the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) disclosed that it had awarded GA-ASI a USD13.06 million contract modification related to the procurement of two Reaper air vehicles and other unmanned aircraft system (UAS) equipment.

“The USMC has an urgent requirement […] for an organic, 24/7 capable, Group 5 UAS for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) and persistent strike efforts for the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) in support of outside continental US (OCONUS) USMC combat ground elements,” the notification said.

The USMC currently fields the Reaper in the CENTCOM area of responsibility (AoR) as a contractor-owned contractor-operated (COCO) asset. Pilots and sensor operators from Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron (VMU) 1 ‘Watchdog’ have been flying missions with oversight from GA-ASI contractors. Operational missions over Afghanistan began in April 2020.

“VMU-1 leases MQ-9A Reaper aircraft to fulfill its urgent needs request for persistent 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 [throughout 2021],” GA-ASI has previously said. “The GOGO capability fulfils 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.”

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