US Marine Corps (USMC) has conducted its maiden operational flight of an MQ-9A Reaper Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) in the Middle East.

The pilots and sensor crew operating the aircraft belong to the Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1 (VMU-1).

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

The crew of VMU-1 took control of a company owned / company operated (COCO) MQ-9A UAS for supporting forward deployed marines.

Following the completion of 7,000 hours of COCO flight operations since 2018, this USMC achievement has been attained.

GA-ASI president David Alexander said: “This achievement represents a unique milestone and example of the Marine Corps’ legacy of innovation.

“As a partner with the Marine Corps, we look forward to expanding the role of medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) UAS in support of maritime littoral missions.”

The persistent Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) in Afghanistan has been conducted by VMU-1, which leased the MQ-9A Reaper aircraft for the mission.

The USMC plans to transition COCO MQ-9A contract to a government owned / government operated (GOGO) contract next year.

The Commandant’s directive for USMC Group 5 persistent ISR capability with strike will be fulfilled by the GOGO contract.

VMU-1 will provide crucial information, lessons learned, requirements, tactics, techniques, and procedures.

Learning from the tests will aid the efforts of USMC. It will help the successful acquisition and fielding of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) UAS Expeditionary (MUX) Group 5 capability.