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The US Marines Corps is looking at a drone that can be launched out of the back of an MV-22 Osprey to provide advanced reconnaissance of potential enemy threats to the aircraft. The MV-22 is a multi-mission, tiltrotor military aircraft with both vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL), and short takeoff and landing (STOL) capabilities. It is designed to combine the functionality of a conventional helicopter with the long-range, high-speed cruise performance of a turboprop aircraft.
The Air-Launched Fast Autonomous Reconnaissance System, or AFARS, that is now being examined, has a maximum range of 165 nautical miles and a 100 nautical mile range with a 10 minute loiter time on station.
According to the Warfighting Lab, the system can maintain a line-of-sight data link capability within a 50 nautical mile radius, providing pilots potentially lifesaving intelligence of ground-based threats miles before the crew reaches their target destination.
The 6-foot-long drone can fly at an altitude of 25,000 feet and carry a payload of up to 4.4 pounds, potentially providing other kinetic strike capabilities or sensors.
The program is still in the early stages of development, and the fiscal year 2020 budget request is only seeking $21.6 million, according to Marine spokesman Capt. Christopher Harrison.
That money will go toward “technical concept maturation and experimentation for MUX (the Marine Air Ground Task Force Unmanned Expeditionary drone),” Harrison said, according to marinecorpstimes.com.