19:21 GMT18 February 2020
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    The US Marines are looking to obtain a “mega-drone” that will be able to launch from land or sea, and carry the same amount of weapons as an F-35.

    Lt. Gen. Jon “Dog” Davis, the Marine Corps’ deputy commandant for aviation, announced his plans on Wednesday at the Unmanned Systems Defense conference in Arlington, Virginia.

    “I would say we’re very aggressive with what we want that Group 5 to be,” Davis said, according to DOD Buzz. “I want my airplane to go off a seabase and, frankly, I think the Group 5 [unmanned aircraft system] for the Marine Corps will have [AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile] on there, will have AIM-9X [Sidewinder missile], will have all the weapons that an F-35 will carry, maybe even the sensors the F-35 will carry.”

    Davis said that he hopes the mega-drone would be able to work with the Marine Corps new F-35B Lightning II 5th-generation fighter on missions.

    “It’s about … making sure that the Marines have the very best protection wherever they go, whatever they do, and manned-unmanned teaming is not just with attack helicopters — it’s with jets, it’s with grunts,” Davis said.

    Mega-drones that would serve their needs include the Bell-Textron V-247, the Lockheed Martin Kaman-built K-Max, or the Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node, or Tern, an aircraft developed by DARPA and the Office of Naval Research that sits on its tail so it can launch and recover on a ship’s deck, DOD Buzz explained.

    “Do I think it will replace manned platforms? No, but I think we have to integrate, look for capabilities, cover down our gaps, our seams, that are out there,” he said. “Frankly, no matter how many airplanes I have, I don’t get 24/7 coverage with my manned platforms, especially from my seabase. If we do distributed operations, we’re going to need all the game we can bring.”

    Davis hopes that the US Marine Corps will have an operational mega-drone program in place by 2024.


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    Mega-Drone, Drone, F-35, Unmanned Systems Defense Conference, Marine Corps
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