General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) has secured a contract from the US Marine Corps (USMC) to deliver eight MQ-9A extended-range (ER) uncrewed aircraft systems (UAS).

This contract falls under the ARES indefinite delivery indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract, which was awarded in May this year.

The MQ-9A aircraft are being procured as part of the USMC’s Force Design 2030 initiative.

Once delivered, the MQ-9A ERs will be operated by USMC’s Marine Uncrewed Aerial Vehicle Squadron (VMU) 3 to support the training of the Marine Littoral Regiment.

It will further facilitate fleet stand-up for VMU-3 based at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Kaneohe Bay in Hawaii by next year in late summer.

GA-ASI DoD Strategic Development vice-president Patrick Shortsleeve said: “We look forward to rapid deployment of these MQ-9A ERs for our USMC customer.

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“This capability will be a key ISR contributor for the Marine Air Ground Task Force – and ultimately for US Indo-Pacific Command – as we pace ourselves to outmanoeuvre our adversaries.”

Delivery of the first UAS and support equipment is expected to commence in autumn this year.

Later this year, GA-ASI is expecting to receive contracts for spares, ground support equipment and control systems (GCS), under the first increment of the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Uncrewed Expeditionary (MUX) Programme of Record.

The MQ-9A ER aircraft features field-retrofittable capabilities, including wing-borne fuel pods and reinforced landing gear, which extends the endurance of the UAS to over 30 hours.

It provides persistent surveillance capabilities along with full-motion video and synthetic aperture radar /maritime mode radar/moving target indicator.

The UAS has a triple redundant avionics system architecture and is equipped with a fault-tolerant flight control system.