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Unmanned Vehicles

Legal issue prompts USMC to buy contractor-operated Reapers

14th April 2021 - 12:09 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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MQ-9A Reaper. (Photo: USAF/Airman 1st Class William Rio Rosado)

A pair of MQ-9As can no longer be operated and owned by General Atomics for strike and targeting missions in the CENTCOM area of operations.

The US Marine Corps (USMC) is acquiring a pair of contractor-owned/operated MQ-9A Reaper MALE UAVs for operations in the Middle East.

In a posting to the beta.sam.gov federal procurement website on 12 April, Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) stated that the deal is worth $13.07 million to Reaper manufacturer General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI).

As noted some two weeks beforehand by the DoD, work will be carried out in Manama, Bahrain (81%); Poway, California (16%); and Yuma, Arizona (3%), and is expected to be completed in August 2021.

In a redacted document justifying the procurement, NAVAIR noted that GA-ASI currently provides and operates the pair of MQ-9As for the USMC in the CENTCOM area of operations in support of overseas contingency operations.

However, the contractor-owned/contractor-operated CONOPS does not satisfy ‘the law of armed conflict’ as it relates to strike or targeting missions, NAVAIR stated. This law ‘specifically states that contractor air vehicles and personnel will not engage in the release of ordnance or active targeting’.

As a result, the USMC will procure (via NAVAIR) the two Reapers plus mission ground control stations and related equipment.

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