The United States Marine Corps has achieved a significant milestone in the field of unmanned aviation by surpassing 20,000 flight hours with their Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Unmanned Expeditionary (MUX) Medium-Altitude, High-Endurance (MALE) MQ-9A Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS).

In a press release, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), the manufacturer of the MQ-9A, hailed the U.S. Marine Corps on this remarkable achievement. The company underscored the service’s commitment to strengthening its aerial surveillance capabilities and confidence in GA-ASI’s expertise in delivering top-tier UAS.

MQ-9A UAS: A Critical Asset for Mission-Critical Objectives

The MQ-9A UAS, known for its fault-tolerant flight control system and triple-redundant avionics system architecture, has become a critical asset for the U.S. Marine Corps in supporting mission-critical objectives.

VMU-3 Launches MQ-9A
This image gives you some perspective on the size of the drone. (Image source: DVIDS)

GA-ASI has delivered eight MQ-9A UAS to the service, with two actively engaged in operational missions. These aircraft have proved their worth and are now integral to the Marines fleet.

The U.S. Marine Corps’ decision to acquire 12 additional MQ-9A UAS showcases their dedication to expanding their aerial surveillance capabilities. Intending to establish three squadrons by 2025, the service is taking strategic steps to enhance its unmanned aviation capabilities.

Enhanced Endurance and Surveillance Capabilities with MQ-9A ER

Let’s take a step back and look at the origins of the MQ-9A before diving into its Extended Range (ER) configuration.

The MQ-9A, or the Reaper, is a UAS developed by General Atomics to follow the earlier MQ-1 Predator. It is designed to be a versatile and capable platform for various military and surveillance missions.

Its development began in the late 1990s and took flight in February 2001. The aircraft was initially conceived as a “hunter-killer” system capable of reconnaissance and offensive operations. Unlike its predecessor, the MQ-1 Predator, the MQ-9A was built with increased size, power, and payload capacity, making it a more formidable and adaptable aircraft.