General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) and the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) teamed up to conduct flight training on the operation of the MQ-9A Block 5 Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) for the Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One (MAWTS-1) at Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Arizona. The students participated in Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) Course 2-24, which is a comprehensive course designed for select pilots and enlisted aircrew that incorporates Marine Corps planning along with implementation of advanced air and ground tactics.

The seven-week course, which was completed on 20 April 2024, for the first time included the employment of GA-ASI’s SkyTower I pod, which is a USMC-specific payload for MQ-9A that provides airborne communication extension capabilities in various waveforms. SkyTower I provides an Airborne Network Extension to the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) that is a commercial-quality WiFi network, as well as a relay/repeater function connecting geographically disconnected teams.

“GA-ASI is proud to support the training of the MAWTS-1 aircrews in the use and utility of the MQ-9A platform, especially now with our SkyTower capabilities,” said GA-ASI Vice President of DoD Strategic Development Patrick Shortsleeve.

The WTI course provides graduate-level training, particularly in refining tactical skills and strategies for aviation operations. It is an integral part of developing and implementing aviation weapons and tactics, both in terrestrial and maritime settings.

In recent training scenarios, the Marines had the opportunity to hone their skills using a GA-ASI-supplied MQ-9A. The platform provides hands-on experience in operating advanced UAS, enhancing their proficiency in utilizing MQ-9A effectively for various missions.

Graduates of the WTI program are poised to become go-to experts within their squadrons for the employment of MQ-9A Block 5, leveraging their training and specialized knowledge. The program ensures that graduates are well-prepared to lead and execute missions utilizing this platform.

This training is a critical part of the MAGTF Unmanned Expeditionary (MUX) Medium-Altitude, Long-Endurance (MALE) program meeting Full Operational Capability (FOC).

GA-ASI has delivered 13 MQ-9A UAS to the USMC so far. The USMC awaits delivery of seven additional aircraft, which will fulfill their goal of three squadrons by 2025.

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