One of the most dangerous military weapons to ever exists and possibly would play a significant role in the next world war, the MQ-9A, is the latest major procurement of the US Marine Corps (USMC).

On Sunday, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) announced that they would soon begin delivering the eight MQ-9A Extended Range (ER) aircraft to the Marines as part of the Agile Reaper Enterprise Solution (ARES) contract signed by both parties on May 27.

USMC began operating the sophisticated unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in September 2018, under the contractor-owned/contractor-operated arrangement with GA-ASI. The US Force has used the leased UAS and ground control stations in its Afghanistan operations and “flew over 12,000 hours in the theater before returning to the US.”

This aided the development of the Marine Air Ground Task Force Unmanned Expeditionary (MUX) effort, which is now a program of record. However, it was only in August last year that the GA-ASI transferred the ownership of the MQ-9As to the USMC, anticipating receiving the payment later this year.

The first deliveries of the aircraft and support equipment will begin before the end of this year, arriving in time for the fleet standup for the Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron (VMU)-3 at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, in the summer os 2023. VMU-3 will operate these MQ-9A ERs with their unique sensors and network capabilities as part of the Marine Corps’ Force Design 2030 efforts to support training for the Marine Littoral Regiment.