The US Marine Corps’ (USMC) Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM)-764 has supported aviation delivered ground refuelling of a MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft (RPA).

The MQ-9 drone belonged to the California Air National Guard’s (ANG) 163rd Attack Wing (ATKW).

The refuelling from an MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft was conducted at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center in Twenty-nine Palms, California on 20 and 21 July.

It was carried out as part of the fire support coordination drill, Integrated Training Exercise (ITX) 4-22.

The exercise involved the integration of airmen from 163rd ATKW and Marine Air-Ground Task Force 23 (MAGTF) to provide close air support.

ITX aims to test MAGTF’s ability to conduct complex coordination of various fires assets to support manoeuvre forces.

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According to 163rd ATKW operations assistant director and US Air Force (USAF) major Shanna Ream, the latest event marks the first time an USAF MQ-9 Reaper has been refuelled by a joint platform.

It is the second time an MQ-9 has received fuel from another aircraft.

Ream said: “The MQ-9 has been dependent on a large footprint overseas to launch and recover aircraft.

“The Joint Force will likely not have ability to establish large air bases overseas in future conflicts, which requires adaptation in employment of MQ-9.

“Now we’re making it expeditionary where we can hop to different places with a very small footprint, refuel, rearm, get back up in air and continue supporting.”

The USMC is working on the procurement of MQ-9 and will keep exploring ways to employ this aircraft with small footprint to support Force Design 2030.