New flying technology changes the marines’ mentality for future combat

WASHINGTON — Naval aviation planners are looking beyond vertical take-off aircraft, such as the AV-8 Harrier or MV-22 Osprey, and instead at how aviation support fits into combat power, regardless of aircraft type.

New challenges in the face of Chinese, Russian and other hostile militaries have forced the Corps to find new ways of doing business across the board, Lieutenant Colonel Nicholas Mulder said Wednesday at the 2022 Modern Day Marine Show in Quantico, Virginia.

“We’ve fallen back on some of the ways we’ve been going,” Mulder said. “We didn’t wash them away, didn’t push them aside, we just came back from the perspective of a platform replacement mentality.”

This is the standard approach to purchasing a system to meet a need, and then introducing, upgrading and employing that system, which can drive how units fight and what’s even possible for their concepts of operations.

“We’re starting to shift towards a capacity mindset and look at it from a holistic approach that focuses specifically on capacity development,” he said.

Mulder said aviation leaders are looking at new designs for flight vehicles and new methods to meet needs or open up new ways to use aviation.

Currently, naval aviation gets its assignments to support ground offensive or naval power or help move people and equipment around the battlefield.

“What we didn’t think about was what it would mean if a Logistics Combat Element had their own aerial platform, if they could execute, fly, control, on their own?” He said. “It’s going to shatter a lot of paradigms for how to move forward, if that’s the case.”

What that might mean, Mulder said, is instead of building an aircraft that will be in force for the next two to three decades, rather than buying or building aircraft that are less expensive but often replaced with advances in technology, particularly in the field of drones.

A quick example that has dominated a lot of talk about futuristic naval aviation in recent years is the Maritime Task Force Land Air Force Unmanned Aerial System, or MUX. Just a few years ago at this show, the industry was offering a great and expensive one-platform solution.

It looked like a large drone with multiple payloads to do a variety of tasks and act as a kind of forward central node. This node will transmit data and commands, carry all kinds of strikes, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. This connection would place the Marines’ capabilities at the level of an infantry force for a squad-sized team on the battlefield.

But Congress saw the program as too expensive and gave up consideration

Instead, the revamped version in MUX looks like a “set of systems”. Currently, the Corps is building the MQ-9 Reaper UAV systems and squadrons in order to expand the capabilities of its high-level UAVs decades later.

While the MQ-9 is considered an outdated platform by other services, it is new to the Corps. And while they may be the norm at the moment, they are unlikely to be the same drone-flying missions in a decade.

But rather than looking for a better drone, the Corps instead wants to see how it can find mission kits, software packages, and companion pieces that can solve flying problems from ISR to logistics strikes.

The Marine Corps’ recently launched 2022 flight plan showed the Corps had two MQ-9 Reaper drones as of early April, with plans to eventually have 18 Reapers in stock.

This means two active-duty squadrons and one training squadron by 2025.

Deputy Chief of Aviation Lt. Gen. Mark Wise said in a May 2 briefing that the core of the MUX program is that it carries capabilities around the battlefield, like a truck.

“It carries an ability. The MQ-9 is not going to be the end state,” Wise said. “There will be something after that and something after that.”

While the drone program has the advantage of being one of the newer items on the Marine Corps’ wish list, it is far from the dominant system. Although the service will likely phase out the AV-8 Harrier over time, due to cuts in the flight plan for pilot training, the numbers for the MV-22 Osprey will grow as its use by the Navy increases.

The F-35 replaces the AV-8. The Corps plans to keep four Harrier squadrons operating during this fiscal year, when its West Coast squadrons will transition to the new aircraft. East Coast squadrons will continue to operate the Harrier through fiscal year 2027, according to the flight plan.

The Marines fund digital interoperability and advanced combat capabilities and add a degraded optical landing system capability for MV-22 pilots.

The service plans to operate 14 active squadrons of MV-22B with 12 aircraft each. They will maintain two reserve squadrons in the same configuration and build a replacement squadron for one fleet with 27 ready-made aircraft, according to the flight plan.

In total, the Corps will meet “full operational capability” when the 360 ​​MV-22 is delivered. The plan did not provide a final delivery date.

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government, and the military for several publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer Finalist for a joint project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

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