US Marine Corps personnel control a government-owned and government-operated Reaper unmanned aircraft for the first time in late August. GA-ASO announced the official handover of ownership to the corps on 20 October. (USMC)
The US Marine Corps (USMC) has taken official ownership of two General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9A Reaper medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the manufacturer announced on 20 October.
The transfer of the Block 5 Reapers and their associated equipment was completed from GA-ASI to the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) on 15 October, marking the transition from a contractor-owned contractor-operated (COCO) to a government-owned government-operated (GOGO) model of operation for the corps.
“The two COCO MQ-9As, using remote split operations from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, have been in operation for the USMC as part of a lease agreement between GA-ASI and Naval Air Systems Command, accruing over 12,000 flight hours supporting operations in the Middle East and informing the requirements and expectations for the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Expeditionary (MUX) Program of Record (POR),” GA-ASI said. “The MUX POR will include an additional 16 new MQ-9As, which the [US] Marine Corps will begin procuring in 2022 to support an early operational capability in 2023, and initial operating capability in the US Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) by 2025.”
News of the official handover of ownership comes two months after Janes first reported that the USMC had flown the Reaper under its own control for the first time, with the milestone marked by Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron (VMU) 1 ‘Watchdog', 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.