General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) has announced the transfer of two MQ-9A Reaper Block 5 uncrewed aircraft systems (UAS) to the US Marine Corps (USMC).

The aircraft were transferred on 15 October.

This transfer also includes two ground control stations (GCS) and related support equipment.

The USMC has been operating the two aircraft since 2018 under a company owned / company operated (COCO) lease agreement as part of of an urgent operational need (UON).

According to the company, these MQ-9A Reapers mark the first increment of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) UAS Expeditionary (MUX) Program of Record (POR).

The two COCO MQ-9As have been in USMC operation under a lease agreement between GA-ASI and Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR).

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The two aircraft have completed more than 12,000 flight hours, supporting operations in the Middle East and informing the MUX POR requirements and expectations.

GA-ASI noted that the MUX POR will consist of an additional 16 new MQ-9As.

The USMC will start procuring these UASs starting from next year to support an early operational capability (EOC) in 2023.

The initial operating capability (IOC) in the US INDOPACOM is scheduled for 2025.

Developed and produced by GA-ASI, the multi-sensor reconnaissance-equipped MQ-9A UAS supports USMC’s forward operations on the battlefield.

GA-ASI president David R Alexander said: “The Marine Corps leveraged the leased aircraft to better understand and articulate the needs of the MUX programme, while simultaneously supporting the forward-deployed warfighter.

“It was a great example of how a customer can ‘try before you buy’ our aircraft.

“Now they’ve seen first-hand how a persistent ISR platform, like the MQ-9A, can support the Marine Corps’ need for long-range sensing in the Pacific as a part of the Commandant’s Force Design Initiative.”

The MQ-9A Block 5 UAS has more than 26 hours of endurance, 220KTAS speed, and can operate at an altitude of up to 45,000ft.

It has a 3,850lb payload capacity that includes 3,000lb of external stores.

Engineered to meet crewed aircraft reliability standards, the MQ-9A Block 5 comes with a fault-tolerant flight control system, as well as a triple-redundant avionics system.

In April last year, USMC conducted the maiden operational flight of an MQ-9A Reaper UAS in the Middle East.