Marines betting big on new small drone
July 3rd, 2012
07:00 AM ET

Marines betting big on new small drone

By Jennifer Rizzo

The Marines plan to swell the arsenal of their newest small drone over the next five years by more than 12 times the current level - the largest proportional increase of any of the military's unmanned aircraft.

The RQ-21A Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System (STUAS) was delivered to the military earlier this year. The Marine Corps currently has eight of the unmanned aerial vehicles and plans on acquiring a total of 100 by fiscal year 2017, according to a Defense Department Congressional report.

The drone is based off of the smaller unmanned Scan Eagle. Still acting as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance tool, the RQ-21A is bigger than its ancestor, the Scan Eagle, making it capable of carrying more equipment.

"The main advantage is it carries bigger and more acute sensors," said Aviation Week's Bill Sweetman. That improved technology allows the drone to take clearer pictures.

The drone is able to carry radar, a high-definition camera, and infrared capability at the same time, all of which play differing roles.

"They tell you different things," said Sweetman. "Radar is good at finding moving targets. Hi-def TV is the best way to get positive identification on a vehicle or person or to see if someone is carrying a weapon. But high definition TV doesn't work at night, then you have infrared."

The Marine Corps sees this as a major asset.

"The RQ-21A is equipped with both day and night sensors and a configurable payload bay that increases operational flexibility. The configurable payload bay is notable because it enables the Marine Corps to adapt more rapidly to enemy capabilities as they evolve," Major Michael Shand, Headquarters Marine Corps Unmanned Aerial Systems Requirements Officer, said in a statement.

Like it's predecessor, the RQ-21A doesn't need an airfield or a runway to launch.

"So for the Marines that like to be expeditionary, this is a big deal," said Sweetman.


Filed under: Defense Spending • drones • Marines • Military
soundoff (54 Responses)
  1. MMO

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    August 9, 2012 at 4:38 am | Reply
  5. Everett Wallace

    you accept all this new equipment, good for me bad for you. I don't buy military hardware, I do not put my trust in such small stuff like money or praise you do, all of you are broke, the ticker has burned up. the in god we trust on the dollar bill means satan is your god military not ME.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:36 am | Reply
  6. the breeze

    Hook an M60 to one!

    July 28, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Reply
  7. gervais

    thats all is left for the USA,the military complex.thats all ,that can be sold and be 100% america.They lost in Afganistan just like the Russian.You cannot impose a phylosofy like a new maire!!!!!!!
    the military complex is controling the USA Gov,thats all.
    USA has lost,,,her soul.
    Peace,Truth,Respect does not exist anymore

    July 27, 2012 at 11:57 pm | Reply
  8. Sean

    I have used systems like this and let me tell you that they make things much easier. Everyone that is crying and moaning about this should try to spend a year in Afghanistan.

    July 13, 2012 at 10:04 pm | Reply
  9. bs

    If you don't want the government to spend money on defense then defense industries should be allowed to sell its products to anyone it wants. The government should stop dictating who gets our weapons and when they get our weapons. If the government cannot do that then it should buy and continue spending on defense. Simple!!! Welfare on the other hand only generates useless people.

    July 10, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Reply
  10. some guy

    Mantra of Armed Forces of Today Globally, "Over equip, Over prepare, Under Utilize". Latest Motto of Armed forces globally "show some swag, before they attack , before you despise, just joint excersize " What an overkill of miltary hardware, all this money can go to some good use. Like feeding needy kids and bettering an economy. Secretary of dfence : can we attack those 20 tribal fighters with rifles and some bread . General : "45 Fighter jets and 300 Tanks and 30,000 Troops and 600 Drones and 1 Tactical nuke are just been acquired to achieve success in the battle field.

    July 5, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Reply
    • Clyde

      Well said.

      July 5, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Reply
  11. MIsunderstood

    For all of you who are complaining about the government being overbearing and "wasting" money on the drones, let me ask you this... With people like Osama Bin Laden out there (yes, yes I know – he's dead now), wouldn't you want to know that SOMEONE is out there looking for them, that can go undetected? These drones are very hard to detect, and maybe – just MAYBE – might be used to track these freaks down?????? Yes – it had been said that a drone like this one was used to help locate Bin Laden, that sorry excuse for a human being. I, for one, am HAPPY to have them out there to get these idiots LOCKED UP and away from harming innocent people! Here's another example – PIRATES??? Hmmmm, I think these drones might be good for keeping an eye on them as well! I don't know about you, but I'll say it again – I'm GLAD they will be out there helping to protect the innocents!

    July 5, 2012 at 11:49 am | Reply
    • Clyde

      I vote to use my tax dollars to find solutions. Maybe terrorist's would work to earn a decent living for their family and future. Why continue blowing innocent people up to get 1 or 2 bad guys, I beliieve we just don't know any other way and we are killing for a head count of dead terrorist's. Sounds like the headcounts on the 5 O'clock news back in the 60's and 70's.

      July 5, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Reply
      • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

        >Maybe terrorist's would work to earn a decent living for their family and future.<

        We’ve been trying this in Afghanistan for years. Giving away seed crops and offer subsidizes to grow wheat instead of poppy. The simple fact is the land is harsh and there are to many people. You also make a lot more money of poppy. Simply put…it doesn’t work. I would also add that is not our responsibility to continue welfare for these people.

        July 5, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
      • Clyde

        If you occupy a country and point a gun at them you think that's a solution? Well we can thank or politicians for the Taliban problems after the Russians left. We spent a Trillion dollars and over 5,000 lives and still didn't get Bin Laden or stop his ideology. Looks like we think making Americans of our enemies by force was our only solution. Now as for charity, if they ask for our help give it to them, if they don't ask for our help then leave them alone. We got Bin Laden using intelligences and professional soldiers trained to do a specific mission, bombing the crap out of Irag and Afghanistan didn't find him.

        July 5, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  12. dentate

    "based off of"? " 'it's' predecessor"?

    Does CNN even *pretend* that correct grammar and spelling are expected in their articles, or are they simply having third graders do their work? (Not to mention that the "submit" button below this box is marked "Publicar." Is this the English version of CNN or the Mexican edition?)

    July 5, 2012 at 2:11 am | Reply
  13. Loyal Northern Democrat

    If they help to kill Muslums, then I am happy.

    July 5, 2012 at 12:03 am | Reply
  14. Clyde

    Reading the war comments and how the new drone technology gives us an advantage in finding and killing potential enemies along with non combatants It makes my soul feel sick. Americas soul is sick. It's all about the money, wars and manipulating the world when America can gain an advantage. When man cannot solve it's disagreements or threats he declares WAR. This century with all the communication tools and world economy why aren't we finding peaceful solutions and correcting past wrongs. When will America realize that we aren't the end all for all the world problems and accept we need to let other people solve their own problems. While America spends it's treasure and lives fighting other peoples problems we have damaged our souls for ever.

    July 4, 2012 at 9:41 pm | Reply
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Every tribe, nation and super power through history has strived for advantage. Some have been more successful than others. America is no different in this way. Your argument, however naive would best be directed at all human kind.

      July 5, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Reply
      • Clyde

        Then Advantage of one tribe over another is the problem, naive as it sounds, we can all survive by working out our differences without blowing each other up. Let's give it a try and see if we can change from wars to peaceful solutions.

        July 5, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  15. GySgtG

    great stuff find the enemy. locate, close with and destroy

    July 4, 2012 at 8:21 pm | Reply
  16. Hadenuffyet

    Coming soon to a neighborhood near you!

    July 4, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Reply
  17. ed pokorski

    Better to have toys shot down than our best and well trained young soldiers !!

    July 4, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Reply
    • NN

      Marines are not soldiers, they're Marines.

      July 4, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Reply
  18. NN

    It is just a matter of time before a cheap technology is developed to shoot down these vulnerable little toys.

    July 4, 2012 at 8:46 am | Reply
    • rogerr

      Haha, you are welcome to stick your gun in the air and try to shoot it down...pretty steep learning curve for those who try to shoot down an unmanned/armed UAV with infared and counter battery radar technology...what if you miss?

      July 4, 2012 at 10:14 am | Reply
      • NN

        You wouldn't try to shoot it down with a rifle, I'm sure it will be out of range and maneuvering most of the time, so that's a dumb idea. But a sure bet would be to launch a miniature fragmenting warhead missile with 70 year old proximity fuse technology, then there is no such thing as a miss. The shootdown is the easy part, it is the initial detection that will be the challenge.

        July 4, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • Droner

      GPS signals are very weak. A GPS jammer can be bought online, and if the signal is made stronger and directed, it can take it down. The GPS approach system at Newark airport kept shutting down every night at the same time- they found out it was a delivery truck driver on the overnight shift, driving by at the same time on the NJ turnpike, who had a GPS jammer plugged in, so that his boss couldn't tell that he was parking and sleeping in the truck. If the drone uses microwave transmitters/receivers or radio waves, same thing, different equipment. They could also fly another drone filled with explosives next to it and take it out, or use a tethered weather balloon as a countersurveillence platform, with cameras/radar/chaff/etc attached. I'm sure they have spotters like the drug cartels along the mexico border that would notice a giant catapault being set up to launch these model airplanes.

      July 31, 2012 at 10:09 pm | Reply
  19. Enrico

    War, war, war... that all these American twonks have in mind... Shame on them.

    July 3, 2012 at 8:52 pm | Reply
    • Guest

      Bet you'd call us if your country looked like Syria.

      July 3, 2012 at 9:54 pm | Reply
      • Albert Fish

        Really? Syria's called us?

        July 4, 2012 at 2:03 am |
      • rogerr

        Albert, just google your last statement and realize how wrong you are...

        July 4, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • Stone LTC retired

      The military has never taken land away from a defeated enemy, other than to bury our dead.

      July 3, 2012 at 11:35 pm | Reply
      • Matt

        Uh, we took a massive amount of land from Mexico after the Mexican-American war. We have Puerto Rico and Guam thanks to the Spanish-American War. We gained the Northern Mariana Islands because of WW2. Of course, all that is small potatoes compared to taking the entire continental US from the Native Americans. Oh, and we tried to annex Canada during the War of 1812.

        July 4, 2012 at 3:02 am |
      • Tom

        We made up a war and then took Panama. We knocked off the royal family and then took Hawaii.

        July 4, 2012 at 9:22 am |
      • rogerr

        Matt, your great great grandparents probably owned slaves too...so you are guilty of profiting off slavery, by your logic. Within our lifetime...in the past 100 years (Matt), we have not taken and held land from defeated enemy. Mariana Islands federation agreed upon their annexation by the way, Matt.

        July 4, 2012 at 10:10 am |
      • Droner

        That is the exact way we gain more land. Look up some land grants at the local courthouse, and you'll notice the first ones are to the military commanders and ship captains. Notice who the first governors are, and who the street names are named after. And yes, Hawaii was taken that way- look it up- Queen Liliokulani versus the Marines and the sugar companies. Look how Israel did the land grab during the 1967 war to get land from Syria and Jordan (West Bank, etc). You can't be serious.

        July 31, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
    • Clint

      Funny, I did not read anything about armament. It's a survailance drone, IE, not war, just a peeping tom.....

      July 4, 2012 at 12:39 am | Reply
  20. JOSE0311USMC

    marines don't have drones ?? but our local police does ?????my god.

    July 3, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Reply
  21. 11BangBang

    Sure. So the next time we have to go do some dirty work, you can blast the government for not properly equipping the force...

    July 3, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Reply
  22. bsitz

    "Drones, bombs, guns, planes no problem at a cost of 600+ billion per year to the tax payer. Want a National Health Care System......no way it costs too much!!!!"......GOP

    July 3, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Reply
    • Pradeep

      Dont forget the unnecessary Iraq war which cost billions more.

      July 3, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Reply
      • JOSE0311USMC

        drones can safe lives by scouting the area ahead.

        July 3, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
      • JOSE0311USMC

        save

        July 3, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
      • Duane

        But the war in Afghanistan is ok? Is that because the DNC tells you it's ok?

        July 3, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
      • geotigg

        No, Duane, Dumas !!! The war in Afganistan is NOT OK!!! But then again, the DNC didn't get us INTO it, did they???

        July 4, 2012 at 7:27 am |
    • J G

      Individuals can purchase their own health care and insurance.

      You and I cannot purchase national security and defense.

      I'll let you guess which one the Government should be responsible for and which we as individuals should be responsible for.

      July 3, 2012 at 5:43 pm | Reply
      • some guy

        There are many poor people who cannot buy their own health care, cannot feed their families despite working for 14 hrs a day. Is the survival of americans more important or is the death of enemies more important. Dont comment like a senseless fool. You may not know it but children die in America due to lack of medical care and you want to waste money over equipping an already lethal fighting force. Dont you trust your marines can Improvise, Adapt and Overcome. and i can be certain of this no marine will ever tell you that he/she prefers the govt spend more money on recon equpment than on medical aid for a small child, old man , pregnant woman. You are not patriotic, you are misguided.

        July 3, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
      • Stone LTC retired

        Hey someguy,
        It's call military progressivism...it's what keeps you safe. If we took your liberial philosophy on military superiority, we still be using black powered flint locks and shoveling horse manure.

        July 3, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
      • Edward Miller

        Someguy, our military is ANCIENT. We still make heavy use of Vietnam war era aircraft and equipment. The equipment I work on, for the most part, is NOT state of the art. Service members have "adapting and overcoming" for decades. Yes, the defense budget is massive, but a lot of those funds go towards keeping 40 year old aircraft frames in the air. All the hi tech stuff you see in movies makes up a very small portion of the actual military.

        July 4, 2012 at 1:40 am |
      • Aroz

        The one Rush tells you?

        July 4, 2012 at 2:08 am |
    • Duane

      The largest DOD budget in the history of the nation was submitted by the Obama Administration which, I believe, is Democratic. I realize you have been trained to reflexively spout GOP when you're pouring invective on the government but please try to be a little bit truthful.

      By the way, the Democrats have engaged in more wars and killed more US citizens then the GOP; the GOP ain't even close. Another fact that I'm sure will fail to pierce your delusional bubble.

      July 3, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Reply
      • Big Mike

        I don't think so. Today's DOD budgets are much smaller than in the 1980's.

        July 4, 2012 at 9:33 am |

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