sensors, targeting systems and weapons, to perform all
seven missions could be challenging.
The Initial Capabilities Document for MUX envisions a single platform, but “we’ll have to see what
comes out of the AoA,” he said. But, he noted, “six of
those critical capabilities are more traditional of what
we see in the land-based Group 5s that are out there,”
such as Reaper and Predator, which do reconnaissance,
data streaming and air-to-ground attack.
MUX seeks some additional capabilities, such as a
flying communications gateway, digital interoperability, airborne C3, early warning and possibly air-to-air
attack, Barranco said. But some of those could be
enabled by installing an active electronically scanned
array radar and capitalizing on the digital interoperable
network the Marines already are developing, he added.
The one capability that might drive them to “two
material solutions,” or two airframes, is the need for
an unmanned cargo aircraft, Barranco said. “Other
than what the Marine Corps did with the K-MAX, no
one’s really pursued that.”
K-MAX was a manned helicopter built by Kamen
to carry heavy external loads. Lockheed Martin gave
it unmanned capabilities and the Marines used it
extensively to carry crucial supplies to small combat
outposts in Afghanistan.
The aviation plan suggests that
the cargo UAS could be a smaller
Group 4 airframe.
The Marines really want to
keep MUX to a single “material
solution,” Barranco said, because
it would save money in training
operators and maintainers and providing supply and support facilities.
“Two material solutions may
be too high a task when you look
at personnel for the Marine Corps,
and facilities,” he said. “On the
flip side, you don’t want a jack-
You don’t want to force it to do all
seven, but not be able to do any of
How the program will deal with
the complex issues of providing and
integrating all the various payloads
into the MUX aircraft has yet to be
determined. But what is very clear,
Barranco said, is “we want open
architecture. We do not want pro-
prietary” systems or technology.
Many of the capabilities may come from subcontractors or be government-supplied equipment. But what
we can say is, ‘we want open architecture, we do not
want anything proprietary that can’t work with everything else.’ … We will not go down that road again,
ever,” he said.
Although the aviation plan cites MUX as a Navy-Marine Corps program, Barranco said the Navy does
not have a validated requirement for that capability.
The Navy office for surface warfare ships — cruisers and destroyers — has expressed interest in MUX
capabilities for over-the-horizon surveillance and
C2, he said. The Marine offices handling the program
work closely with their Navy counterparts and are
committed to meeting Navy requirements as much as
possible, he said.
The number of aircraft the program will produce
has yet to be determined and could depend on whether
the Navy buys some, Barranco said.
He estimated that the Marines would want one MUX
squadron for each of its four active and one Reserve air
wings. Counting operational, training, spares and attrition aircraft, that could mean more than 20 aircraft per
squadron, or a total of 120 to 150 Marine aircraft.
“Add the Navy aircraft to support C2 for cruisers
and destroyers, it could double,” Barranco added. n
Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 365 Reinforced lower an RQ-21A Blackjack
unmanned aerial surveillance aircraft down from the recovery system using the vertical capture
rope during a Dec. 13 exercise aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde. A
Group 3 unmanned system, the RQ-21A, which can be launched and recovered from an amphib-
ious ship for persistent maritime and land-based tactical surveillance, will replace the RQ-7B
Shadow that requires a short runway for recovery.