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    HomeMilitaryMarines Accelerate Cutting-Edge Counter-Drone Tech Amid Growing Threats

    Marines Accelerate Cutting-Edge Counter-Drone Tech Amid Growing Threats

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    The U.S. Marine Corps is swiftly advancing its anti-drone capabilities, building upon a foundation of existing technologies to address the emerging challenges posed by unmanned systems in modern warfare.

    In recent years, the Marine Corps has recognized the growing threat of unmanned aerial systems (UAS), which have seen extensive use in conflict zones around the world. This threat has prompted the Marines to develop and field a range of counter-UAS technologies aimed at protecting personnel and assets from these increasingly sophisticated and prevalent devices.

    Cutter Stone unmanned aerial system flight operations” by Coast Guard News is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    At the core of these efforts is the Program Executive Office Land Systems, which oversees the development of ground-based air defense systems among other portfolios.

    Shadow Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) launch” by Georgia National Guard is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    The office has been working on integrating and fielding systems that can swiftly counter UAS threats. For instance, the Medium-Range Air Defense Radar, or MARAUDER, and the Multi-Domain Radar for a Contested Environment, or MuDRaCE, are being expedited to be operational within two years, leveraging existing prototypes.

    Shadow Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) inbound!” by Georgia National Guard is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    The integration of anti-drone technology has been likened to “running fast with scissors,” according to Stephen Bowdren, head of the PEO Land Systems.

    Spartans Take to the Air Again with Unmanned Aerial Systems” by #PACOM is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    He highlighted the imminent operational assessment of the Medium-Range Intercept Capability and the completion of initial operational test and evaluation of versions of the Marine Air Defense Integrated System (MADIS), which are on track to be fielded within the next 12 to 18 months.

    Virginia Soldiers conduct flight training on unmanned aerial vehicle system” by Virginia Guard Public Affairs is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

    Adding to the counter-drone arsenal, the Light Marine Air Defense Integrated System (LMADIS), designed to counter smaller UAS threats, is already underway and expected to begin testing within the year. Furthermore, the “big brother” MADIS is anticipated to start initial operational testing soon, with aims to deploy it in the next fiscal year.

    Marines lower an RQ-21A Blackjack unmanned aerial system from a recovery system aboard USS John P. Murtha (LPD 26).” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    Addressing the evolving nature of UAS warfare, Brig. Gen. Stephen Lightfoot underscored the importance of staying ahead of the curve. “When you look at what’s going on in Ukraine and Russia and just the amount of small UAS first-person-view drones… the longer it takes us to get to it … we’re going to get farther and farther behind,” Lightfoot explained.

    Unmanned Aerial System Platoon flies new aircraft” by Virginia Guard Public Affairs is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

    In tandem with defense against airborne drones, the Marines are also contemplating how to counter unmanned ground vehicles and unmanned surface vessels, potentially envisioning a broader counter-unmanned systems (counter-UxS) portfolio.

    California photo of drone airborne over Pacific Ocean” by Tomwsulcer is licensed under CC CC0 1.0

    Another vital component of the Marine Corps’ modernization drive is the newly established “fusion center” at Quantico, Virginia.

    OAS Drone Team preparing for PSD
    OAS Drone Team preparing for PSD by U.S. Forest Service (source) is licensed under CC-CC0 1.0

    This strategic initiative serves to unite various organizations involved in the Corps’ modernization efforts, facilitating the transition of capabilities from the science and technology phase through to fielding.

    Drone flying in the air
    Drone flying in the air by Marcus Burnette is licensed under CC-CC0 1.0

    This center’s first focus is counter-drone capabilities, with a strong emphasis on streamlining the acquisition and integration process.

    Free close flying drone

    These advances come at a time when the Marine Corps is also experimenting with innovative methods of resupply in combat zones, such as the use of drones for “just-in-time” delivery of essential supplies like ammunition, water, and Meals-Ready-to-Eat, as demonstrated in the Tactical Resupply Unmanned Aircraft System (TRUAS) competition.

    Public Safety Employees Learn to Use Unmanned Aerial System at College of DuPage 2016 18” by COD Newsroom is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    The Marine Corps is not only seeking to enhance its current capabilities but is also on the lookout for new technologies. A recent request for information indicated the service’s search for “interceptors,” projectiles capable of neutralizing incoming drones across a wide spectrum of sizes and capabilities.

    Steven Vick: Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Prior to Data Collection Flight at Northwest Cambridge Development Project” by Engineering at Cambridge is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    As the nature of warfare evolves with the proliferation of small UAS and the advent of swarming drone tactics, the Marine Corps is determined to keep pace, innovating and adapting to ensure the effectiveness and safety of its forces in the face of these emerging threats.

    Relevant articles:
    Radars and drone killers: Revamped Marine office hastens tech creation, Defense News
    Delivery drones carry dinner to Marines in battle, C4ISRNet
    New Marine Corps ‘fusion center’ to focus on counter-drone tech, DefenseScoop
    Marines looking for new counter-drone tech, FedScoop

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