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    US Marine Corps Seeks Advanced UAVs and Anti-Drone Capabilities Amid Global Technological Race

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    Las Vegas, United States - 15.11.2019 MQ-9 Reaper Drone in flight during the Aviation Nation Airshow in Nellis Air Force Base in 15.11.2019 in Las Vegas, United States
    Las Vegas, United States – 15.11.2019 MQ-9 Reaper Drone in flight during the Aviation Nation Airshow in Nellis Air Force Base in 15.11.2019 in Las Vegas, United States

    The US Marine Corps (USMC) is on a quest to enhance its Uncrewed Aerial Systems (UAS) capabilities, as evident at the Modern Day Marine Conference in Washington, where the force’s leadership signaled a strong demand for “more capable drones, and ways to kill them.”

    At this premier event for the Corps, a clear wishlist was presented: the desire for Group 5 capability drones—akin to the MQ-9 REAPER—in a Group 2 package, all at a Group 1 drone’s price point.

    Gregg Skinner, the Program Manager for Navy and Marine Corps small tactical UAS, set ambitious expectations, envisioning the sophistication of Group 5 drones—typically the largest and most expensive—embedded within smaller, more cost-effective platforms.

    This approach aims to drive manufacturers to invest in the development of drones that deliver high capabilities at a reduced size and cost, without compromising performance.

    The USMC’s interest in advanced technologies is not limited to drones’ offensive capabilities.

    Defensive strategies against the increasing drone threat were also highlighted.

    Lt. Col. Robert Barclay stressed that despite the current Electronic Warfare (EW) achievements with UAVs in conflicts such as Ukraine and the Middle East, the effectiveness of EW may diminish over time, potentially dwindling in the future.

    This cautionary note is prompting the USMC to explore new capabilities to integrate into the C-UAV architecture.

    An illustrative instance is the disruption of GPS through jamming and spoofing, a challenge now countered by drones utilizing innovative methods like terrain mapping to target adversaries swiftly, alongside employing AI extensively to analyze diverse attack strategies.

    This scenario necessitates a multi-layered defense approach for force protection, encompassing missiles, cannons, EW, and directed energy.

    Lt. Col. Barclay also highlighted additional issues arising from C-UAV systems on the contemporary battlefield that warrant specific attention.

    Complementing these efforts, the USMC has also taken significant steps in their UAS program with the successful test flight of the ‘attritable’ UAV, VALKYRIE.

    The objective of the VALKIRYE project is to provide a highly versatile platform and capability suite suitable for tactical operations at a cost-effective level.

    The test flight, conducted at Eglin Air Force Base, demonstrated the XQ-58A’s performance, marking progress in the Corps’ ambitions to deploy a cost-effective, AI-driven platform that can execute a broad range of missions.

    With a planned cost of approximately $6.5 million per unit, the VALKYRIE is positioned as an “attritable” asset, expected to sustain losses in combat after a short service period, yet offering significant capabilities across an impressive range of 1,500-3,000 Nautical Miles.

    Relevant articles:
    UAV systems for the USMC, RID – Rivista Italiana Difesa
    First flight for USMC VALKYRIE UAV, RID – Rivista Italiana Difesa
    Who can fly the Marine Corps’ Reaper drones?, marinecorpstimes.com

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