What to know about the US Marine Corps’s drone program
On Monday, the Marine Corps unveiled a new fleet of drones, dubbed the Predator 2, that are expected to replace the ageing F-35 Lightning II fighter jet.
The unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will have a range of 10,000 kilometres and carry sensors, cameras and radar to track targets.
The first batch of Predator 2s, expected to be in service in 2023, will be deployed to Marine Corps bases in California and Arizona, the US Department of Defense (DoD) said in a statement.
In its press release, the DoD cited its research into drone safety and the “significant” advantages of unmanned aerial systems in “operational environments”.
“The Predator 2 is capable of operating over long distances with high speed and precision, and it is a great option for the Marine Air Assault (MAAS) and Marine Corps Tactical Air Command (MTCAC) that conduct both fixed-wing and unmanned aerial warfare missions,” the DoE said.
“As the number of unmanned air vehicles continues to grow, the Predator can be a critical tool for our armed forces as they strive to achieve their operational objectives.”
The Predator program is an attempt to expand US unmanned aerial capabilities to the rest of the world and to combat the threat of Islamic State militants.
The Marine Corps said the first Predator will be delivered to its Pacific Marine Corps base in California, and the first batch will be flown at Marine Air Station Miramar, Florida, in the fall.
Currently, US Marine combat operations are carried out by manned fighter aircraft and helicopters.
UAV technology is already in the hands of many countries, including Russia, China, France, Britain, the Netherlands and Australia.
However, in 2016, Russia, the UK and China signed a deal to develop a single platform for unmanned aerial combat systems that will use an advanced “unmanned aerial vehicle” to attack and destroy enemy forces in Syria and other Middle Eastern conflicts.
This platform is the Joint Strike Fighter, the Pentagon’s future version of the F-22 Raptor.
Read more about the future of warfare from the DoJ.