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The US Marines Corps’ current fleet of small tactical drones consist of the RQ-12 Wasp, RQ-11 Raven, RQ-20 Puma and a number of vertical lift quadcopters like the Instant Eye. Now, the Corps is interested in enhancing this fleet. It intends to get the next generation of group 1 and group 2 drones that will vary in distances and endurances and will aid the Corps at tactical levels.
Group 1 consists of drones with a 0-20 lbs (0-9.1 kg) maximum take-off weight, while group 2 includes drones with 21-55 lbs (9.5-25 kg) maximum take-off weight.
Capabilities-based platforms will now replace the specific drone aircraft as the Corps prepares to modernize its small tactical drone fleet with the latest technology and enhancements. Those capabilities include drones that are short range/short endurance, medium range/medium endurance and long range/long endurance.
Resources for the implementation of the plan in fiscal year 2020 reach $34.7 million – more than double the past two years combined of roughly $14 million.
How will this budget be divided? According to marinecorpstimes.com, about $7.4 million is slated for 190 of the next generation short range vertical take-off and landing, or VTOL, drones. They “will provide dispersed Marine Corps units (Companies, Platoons, and Squads) an organic capability to operate in combat zones with significant vertical obstructions such as urban, jungle, and rugged terrains,” the budget request says.
Another $12.9 million will go toward 40 short range/short endurance drones, formerly known as the RQ-12 Wasp. The budget request also noted that this capability will include a VTOL variant.
The sum of $13.9 million will procure 42 long range/long endurance drones, formerly known as the RQ-20B Puma, which will have various enhancements to include a new camera/sensor.
Under $1 million dollars is slated for the Single Operator Man-Portable Ground Control System/Target Handoff System, according to marinecorpstimes.com.