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Marines Release Specifications for New Mega-Drone

Bell V-247 Vigilant UAS on Navy carrier. (Bell Helicopters)

Bell V-247 Vigilant UAS on Navy carrier. (Bell Helicopters)

April 23, 2018 | Source: Military.Com, 13 March 2018, Hope Hodge Seck

The Marine Corps is a step closer to getting a large unmanned aircraft that can launch from ships, fly a radius of up to 700 nautical miles with a full payload, escort the MV-22 Osprey and other platforms, network with other manned platforms, and provide offensive air support, including targeting and strike.

This incredible unmanned aerial system is known as MUX, for Marine Air Ground Task Force Unmanned Aircraft System-Expeditionary.

Marine officials began publicly discussing plan to design and build MUX in 2016. A request for information for the aircraft, directed to companies interested in designing and building it, was released March 9.

In late 2016, Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, then head of Marine Corps aviation, described MUX as a Group 5 aircraft that could carry all the weapons on an F-35B, fly at 30,000 feet, and provide key electronic warfare and command-and-control capabilities.

"If we do distributed operations, we're going to need all the game we can bring," Davis said at the time.

According to the 35-page request for information, the Corps wants an aircraft capable of carrying internal and external payloads totaling 9,500 pounds.

Weapons the service wants MUX to carry for various missions include AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles; AIM-9X air-to-air missiles; the advanced precision kill weapon system (APKWS) laser-guided rocket; the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, or AMRAAM; the AGM-88E Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile (AARGM); small-diameter bombs; and an expendable unmanned aerial vehicle for early warning and electronic warfare.

Top-priority missions for the MUX include early warning; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; electronic warfare; and communications relay. Secondary missions include offensive air support, aerial escort and cargo transportation, according to the document.