It did not take much to impress top leaders, including the Marine Corps commandant. Gen. Robert B.
Neller has tasked the service and the warfighting lab
with finding new or existing creative ways to prepare
the force for the high-tech operational environment.
“Some of the stuff we’re going to do isn’t going to
work. Some of the stuff we’re going to do the Marines
are going to tell us it’s too heavy or it’s not reliable or
it didn’t give us the effect that we want,” said Neller,
speaking during a break in his July 28 visit to the
Twentynine Palms training center to talk with Marines
and get briefings about the experimentation. “So I don’t
want anybody to be afraid to fail. We’re out here in
training, and training is where you make mistakes and
it’s where you learn.
“At the end of the day, the one thing that’s going to
happen is I think we’re going to come up with some
better idea of what we think the Marine Corps, organizationally and equipment-wise, should look like in the
future,” he said.
That includes a growing demand for more unmanned
and autonomous aircraft, vehicles and systems to provide
intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities and, when needed, weapons to strike targets. The
MIX exercise provided the all-important first hard look
at what is possible, realistic and, hopefully, affordable.
“I think the unmanned systems for ISR — and pos-
sibly for kinetic strike — are here right now, and the
Marines will figure out a way to use them,” Neller said.
Unmanned systems like the Reaper drone already are
available, he noted, and “are going to be on our shop-
ping list for sure.”
The strategic-level asset is maintained by the U.S.
Air Force and through contracts with its manufacturer,
General Atomics-Aeronautical Systems Inc., San Diego.
The Air Force maintains an inventory of about 93 of
the multimission Reapers, which have a range of 1,150
miles, according to the service. The Air Force is set to
retire its fleet of older MQ- 1 Predator drones and, in
mid-August, issued a $370.9 million contract for 30
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG SEAPOWER / OCTOBER 2016
The Marine Corps has been testing the MQ- 9 Reaper unmanned aerial system (UAS) as it looks at the possibility of fielding a large, Group 5 UAS. The service envisions using a Group 5 UAS as part of layers of interwoven unmanned systems
and manned aircraft in the deep and complex battlespace of the future. The Corps has been operating the smaller, but
capable, RQ-7B Shadow Group 3 drone since 2007.