WASHINGTON – Naval aviation planners look beyond vertical take-offs, such as the AV-8 Harrier or MV-22 Osprey, and instead how to tailor air support to combat forces, regardless of aircraft type.

New challenges in opposing Chinese, Russian and other military action have forced the Corps to find new ways to do business in all areas, Lt. Col. Nicholas Mulder said Wednesday at the 2022 Marine Exhibition in Quantico, Virginia.

“We deviated from some of the paths we were descending,” Mulder said. “We didn’t wash them away, we didn’t push them aside, we just backed off in terms of the platform change mentality.”

This is the standard approach to purchasing a system to meet needs, then deploying, upgrading and using this system, which can control how units fight and what is even possible for their operations concepts.

“We started to focus on the ability mentality and look at it from a holistic approach that specifically focuses on developing skills,” he said.

Aviation leaders are considering new aircraft designs and new approaches to meeting needs or opening up new ways to use aviation, Mulder said.

Naval aviation is currently tasked with storming ground or naval forces or helping to pull people and equipment around the battlefield.

“What we haven’t looked at is what it would mean if the logistics combat element had its own air platform, if they could perform, fly, control themselves?” He said. This will break many paradigms about how to move forward, if so.

That could mean, Mulder said, instead of building an aircraft that will be in effect for the next two to three decades, instead of buying or building an aircraft that is cheaper but more often replaced by advances in technology. , especially in the drone arena.

A quick example that has dominated much of the talk of future maritime aviation in recent years has been the unmanned aerial vehicle system of the Maritime Air Ground Task Force or MUX. Just a few years ago, at this show, the industry offered an exquisite and expensive solution on a single platform.

It looked like a large drone with many payloads to perform various tasks and function as a kind of front central unit. This node will transmit data and commands, will carry all kinds of percussion and reconnaissance means, means of surveillance and intelligence. The connection will enable the Marine expeditionary forces to take on a team the size of a detachment on the battlefield.

But Congress saw the program as too expensive, and it faded from consideration

Instead, the updated version sees MUX as a “family of systems.” Right now, the Corps is building its MQ-9 Reaper drone systems and squadrons to expand its high-level drone capabilities decades later.

While the MQ-9 is considered an older platform than other services, it is new to the Corps. And while it may be a base for now, the drone missions are unlikely to be the same in a decade.

But instead of just looking for a better drone, the Corps wants to see how it can find what sets of missions, software packages and related parts can work to solve aviation problems from ISR to logistics.

A recently published Marine Aviation Plan for 2022 showed that the hull has two MQ-9 Reaper drones as of early April, with plans to eventually have 18 Reapers in inventory.

This means two active squadrons and one training squadron until 2025.

Aviation Deputy Commander Lt. Gen. Mark Wise told a news briefing on May 2 that the core of the MUX program is that it transports capabilities into combat space, something like a truck.

“It simply came to our notice then. “MQ-9 will not be the final 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 new items on the Marines’ wish list, it is far from the dominant system. Although the service is likely to discontinue the AV-8 Harrier over time, given the reduction in the aviation pilot training plan, the number of MV-22 Osprey will increase, as will its use by the Navy.

The F-35 replaces the AV-8. The Corps plans to maintain four Harrier operational squadrons this fiscal year, when West Coast squadrons switch to the new aircraft. East Coast squadrons will continue to operate Harrier until fiscal 2027, according to the aviation plan.

The Marines are funding digital interoperability and improved combat capabilities and adding impaired visual landing capabilities to MV-22 pilots.

The service plans to fly 14 active MV-22B squadrons with 12 aircraft each. They will keep two reserve squadrons in the same configuration and will build one fleet change squadron with 27 aircraft ready, according to the aviation plan.

Overall, the hull will reach “full operational capability” when the 360th MV-22 is delivered. The plan does not specify the date of final delivery.

Todd South has written about crime, the courts, the government and the military in numerous publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer Finalist for a joint witness intimidation project. Todd is a veteran of the Marines in the Iraq war.


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