In yet another sign the Corps is becoming increasingly concerned about air defense, the Corps decided to slap a counter-drone system on a Polaris MRZR all-terrain vehicle.
It’s called the Light Marine Air Defense Integrated System, or LMADIS, and it’s comprised of two MRZR vehicles, a command node and a sensor vehicle.
The system is a “maneuverable ground-based sensor, electronic attack, C2 [ command and control] system," 1st Lt. Ariel Cecil, the commander of the Low Altitude Air Defense detachment for Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 166, said in a video posted by the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
The LMADIS can detect, track, identify and take down drones with electronic attack, according to Cecil.
The MRZR counter drone system is currently deployed with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit where it recently participated in the Theater Amphibious Combat Rehearsal exercise in Djibouti.
The Corps has been investing heavily in counter air and drone threats. It’s an issue the Marines really haven’t had to focus on for some time now.
But as the Corps begins to face down more sophisticated hostile actors there’s no guarantee Marines will always operate on a battlefield where they own the airspace.
That means enemy air or drone attacks are now a reality the Corps must plan for.
And increasingly, drone technology has found its way into the hands of terrorist groups and ragtag militias.
ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria have been known to weaponize small commercial quadcopter drones, dropping small munitions and hand grenades on Iraqi and partner nation forces. Even the Taliban in Afghanistan have gotten in the game, using small drones to film attacks on remote Afghan army outposts.
But the big threat, according to the Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert B. Neller, is that adversaries will eventually learn how to control these small attack drones in massive swarms.
“When you think about enemy air attacks, you think about jets and bombers and stuff,” Neller said at the Atlantic Council in April. “I think the real future in enemy air attack is going to be swarming drones.”
So, the Corps has embarked on an ambitious plan to field a new suite of tech to bolster the Corps’ air defense and counter drone capabilities.
Two such systems are the Ground Based Air Defense-Transformation, or GBAD, and the Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar, or G/ATOR.
The GBAD systems is basically a detection system with laser weapon that can track and destroy drones, and it’s mountable on the Corps’ new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle or Humvee. That program is still undergoing testing and evaluation.
The G/ATOR system has been in the Corps’ arsenal since 2013 and it can detect rockets, mortars, artillery cruise missiles, and drones. The system is highly mobile making it integral to the Corps’ distributed operations plan in the Pacific should a conflict come between the U.S. and China.
And the Corps is also dishing out money to modify Stinger missiles as part of Service Life Extension Program.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.