The Marine Corps has created a new military occupational specialty, or MOS: the 7318 for MQ-9 Reaper pilots, according to an administrative message signed Friday.
“We need to transition from our current UAS platforms to capabilities that can operate from ship, from shore, and able to employ both collection and lethal payloads,” the document said.
The Corps plans to buy 3 hunter-killer Reaper drones. It will be a first for the Corps operating a group five drone.
The new force design plans to add three new unmanned squadrons to the Marine Corps in the next ten years, according to the force design, with a focus on bigger and more capable unmanned systems.
Currently the Marine Corps unmanned aerial squadrons primarily operate the RQ-21 Blackjack, a group 3 unmanned aerial systems primarily focused on intelligence gathering.
The “2030 force will operate Group 5 UAS. To achieve this future vision, an in stride transition is necessary to leverage current Group 3 operators until the future Group 5 community is created,” the recent MARADMIN said.
In March pilots with Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron-1, also known as VMU-1, operated the group 5, MQ-9 Reaper in the Middle East for the first time.
The vehicle, owned by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. provided “crucial support” conducting operations in the Middle East, according to a press release from the company.
“This achievement represents a unique milestone and example of the Marine Corps' legacy of innovation,” David R. Alexander, president, GA-ASI said in a press release. “As a partner with the Marine Corps, we look forward to expanding the role of Medium-altitude, Long-endurance (MALE) UAS in support of maritime littoral missions.”
In addition to creating a new MOS for Reaper pilots, the Corps is updating the 7315 unmanned aerial systems officer MOS.
The 7315 MOS is now designated as the group 3 unmanned aerial systems officer and will focus on operating the smaller unmanned vehicles the Corps is currently using.
The Marine Corps has not yet responded to questions about how many Marines will be assigned to each MOS or how quickly Marines will be trained on operating the MQ-9 Reaper.