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US Marines Perform Aviation-Delivered Ground Refueling for MQ-9 Drone

The US Marine Corps have successfully performed aviation-delivered ground refueling for an MQ-9 Reaper drone during the recently-conducted Integrated Training Exercise 4-22.

The drone received fuel from an MV-22 Osprey helicopter, marking the first time it has been refueled by a joint asset and only the second time it has received fuel from another aircraft.

US Air Force Maj. Shanna Ream explained that the MQ-9 Reaper has depended on a large footprint overseas to launch and recover for its following missions.

However, she made it clear that the joint force will likely not be able to establish large air bases in other countries, requiring the service to develop other deployment strategies for the MQ-9 platform.

“Now we’re making it expeditionary where we can hop to different places with a very small footprint, refuel, rearm, get back up in the air, and continue supporting,” Ream stressed.

MQ-9 Reaper
An MQ-9 Reaper drone landed at an airfield for ground refueling. Photo: Staff Sgt. Joseph Pagan/US Marine Corps

‘More Agile, Lethal, and Expeditionary’

The aviation-delivered ground refueling is one way the US Marines can continue employing the aircraft with “as small of a footprint as possible.”

The exercise was beneficial for the US Marine Corps and US Air Force as they continue to search for ways to be “more agile, lethal, and expeditionary” on the battlefield.

The Marines performed “Reaper ACE (agile combat employment), which focuses on the ability to move aircraft rapidly to smaller, dispersed locations to avoid being targeted by enemy missiles.

“Working with the Marine Corps is very important because the Marine Corps just acquired the MQ-9,” Ream said. “So a lot of those tactics, techniques, and procedures… we’re helping to develop that.”

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