Marine Reaper Woes

| March 29, 2023

MQ-9 Reaper

Two years ago, the Marine’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (VMU-1, 3rd MAW) procured the MQ-9A Reaper drone. Significant because of the vehicle’s proven role as the primary offensive strike unmanned aerial vehicle for the U.S. Air Force.

The UAV is touted to provide the capability to perform strike, coordination, and reconnaissance against high-value, fleeting, and time-sensitive targets. The capabilities include significant legs and loiter time, multispectral sensors, an advanced comm suite, and precision weapons.

VMU-1 spox state the command is uniquely positioned to enable joint force targeting from a remote location by a Marine aviator and sensor operator.

There is a problem, though.

The Marine Corps can’t train MQ-9 operators fast enough

In separate hearings, two senators – both from North Dakota – pressed Pentagon brass about training issues and use case for the MQ-9 Reaper.


The Marine Corps, in its eagerness to ramp up purchases of the unmanned MQ-9 Reaper, has run into a problem: It can’t get enough officers trained on how to operate the plane fast enough.

The issue came up today while the service’s senior officer, Commandant Gen. David Berger, was testifying before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on defense, alongside Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday.

In response to a question from Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., Berger said the Marines had been relying on the Air Force, which has been using the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance drone since 2007, for training. That reliance, Berger said, will not get the Marines to the number of qualified officers it needs to operate the Reapers it is purchasing.

The Marine Corps received funding from lawmakers to buy five MQ-9s, built by General Atomics, in fiscal 2023 and is seeking money for five more in FY24.

“We don’t see any shrinking of — reduction of that demand so … we got a couple of options here,” Berger said.

Breaking Defense

So much to poke at here, most involving the word “logistics.” Purchase of an advanced weapons system without a manning pipeline defines nonexistent planning. Worse, that merely masks the real issue.

No real pilot wants to fly a drone.

Category: Blue Skies, Marines

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The USMC UAS training detachment at Huachuca shut down and deactivated almost two years ago. Apparently, they’re no longer using the same aircraft as the Army. I did find this, though:


“No real pilot wants to fly a drone”

How about if they paint a picture of him in the cockpit?
Lots of surface area on that radome in the nose.
It would look awesome compared to the overgrown cyst it is now.


Here’s a little inspiration for the “pilot” to be painted on the “cockpit”:


“No real pilot wants to fly a drone”
This. Imagine 4 years of college, commissioning, getting into the pilot pipeline, learning to fly on training aircraft, then when the Navy splits you off into the different pipelines for aircraft type, you get drones. Your friends all get to go off and play Maverick, you get to play Xbox.
I’m sure the Marines won’t have to suddenly scramble to start offering massive retention bonus money like the Air Force did, when all these drone pilots reach the end of their service commitments and head for the door with all their training and experience.


Maverick flying a drone? Fuhggetaboutit!

Last edited 1 year ago by Anonymous

I did imagine that. And then I tried to imagine why on earth the military thinks it needs someone that qualified to fly a friggin’ drone. Not only does no real pilot want to fly a drone, no real military wants a real pilot to fly a drone.

Army-Air Force Guy

How about this: Make it an enlisted AFSC or Marine MOS. Make it a least a five year enlistment to help offset training costs. Possibly recruit from Crew Chief or Engine Shop folks as well. Just an idea.


Naw, it takes an ossifer to handle the complexities of all that air combat maneouvering and formation flying or the leadership skills.

Wait….you mean a drone doesn’t need all that?
Oh…uh… never mind.


Off-topic, but just in… Russky female medics forced into sex slavery by own side:

Last edited 1 year ago by Anonymous

No need for a commission to fly a drone. A decent E-5 can likely handle them.

BlueCord Dad

Back to Sergeant Pilots perhaps?😎


Can’t have the enlisted scum thinking they are as good as the O’s


Simple. Just don’t let the enlisted swine wear flight suits. That will let everyone know the drone pilots are not the cool guys..


Of course, being Air Force, they will still need lots of big patches and wings to show how special they are. No “fifty mission crush” for their fatigue(?) caps, though. Maybe a “fifty mission shine” for the portion of their uniform trousers that gets the most wear.


Appropriate: BOC “The Reaper”


Also… Jesse Kelly ain’t impressed aboit “basic training without yelling”:


Kelly should learn to read. That story is about the PRE- Basic remedial training for folks who couldn’t pass the ASVAB or PT tests. It isn’t about Basic.


Just By-God brilliant, Army. The Army will teach the test, in true Army fashion. These sub-standard recruits will then pass the test, but still be too ignorant, stupid, apathetic or combinations thereof to function without constant overwatch and babysitting. BUT… recruiting numbers will be back up and that’s all that matters. Now excuse me while I go kiss my DD214.


You want a volunteer military, you pay for it…one way or another. Either reduce the number of personnel slots to the available number of volunteers or reduce the standards or increase the $$$ until the number of volunteers matches the need.

Reality sometimes sucks, but it’s still reality.

Wrench Turner

All they need is a Renaissance Man to teach some Shakespeare. Look how well Danny Devito did with Double-D-Squad.


True, but his heart’s in the right place– still not the most hardcore thing there.

Last edited 1 year ago by Anonymous

Sorta like “pre-K”, eh?


More or less– most folk don’t need it.


Damn, that was quick! Must be a record. Less than 7 seconds.


Personally, I would love to gut all the secret squirrel electronics bays, put in a clear canopy, comfy seat with full hydraulic stick and pedals, digital gauges, pressurized for altitude with plenty of luggage room, and happily fly one way the hell up there, to way the hell over there!

Oh! And a cup holder for a bottle of Dr Pepper.

President Elect Toxic Deplorable Racist SAH Neande

I guess the Marines need to relearn, you Reap(er) what you sow.


Why can’t the Marines do like the Army does and train up highly qualified Enlisted to fly their UAS!!???!!!

Problem solved….!


DaHell you doing suggesting a simple solution to such a complex problem?


“Why can’t the Marines do like the Army does…”

And only 2 likes in 10 hours….and 0 dislikes.
I think you may have shocked a number of folks here into a coma.