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US Marine Corps Receives First Extended-Range MQ-9A Reaper Drone

The US Marine Corps has taken delivery of the first of eight MQ-9A Extended-Range (ER) drones under order from General Atomics.

Part of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force Unmanned Expeditionary program, the drone is intended for the newly-formed Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Training Squadron 2 (VMUT-2) to support various missions.

According to company VP Patrick Shortsleeve, the delivery reflects the ongoing partnership between General Atomics and the US Marine Corps (USMC) on cutting-edge systems.

“[General Atomics] has been a contracted warfighting partner of the USMC for several years,” he said. “And VMUT-2’s ability to produce aircrews for the USMC is a tremendous advancement in the USMC’s organic capability.”

In May 2022, the US Navy awarded General Atomics a $136-million contract to supply the USMC with eight MQ-9A ERs.

‘Long-Endurance System’

According to General Atomics, the MQ-9A ER drone features field-retrofittable capabilities, such as wing-borne fuel pods and reinforced landing gear.

It can stay in the air for more than 30 hours, a significant increase over the 27-hour endurance of the MQ-9A.

Its operational range is listed at 1,611 miles (2,592 kilometers), as opposed to the 1,150 miles (1,850 kilometers) of the previous iteration.

Once deployed, the MQ-9A ER will provide persistent surveillance, thanks to its full-motion video, synthetic aperture radar, moving target indicator, and maritime mode radar capabilities.

It also boasts a triple-redundant avionics system and a fault-tolerant flight control system to meet reliability standards.

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