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NEWS | Aug. 8, 2023

VMU-3 Reaches MQ-9A Initial Operational Capability

By 2nd Lt. Hannah Venables, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing

Today, Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron (VMU) 3, hosted a unit-led ceremony to commemorate the squadron’s years of dedicated effort and work to reach Initial Operational Capability with the MQ-9A Extended Range Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Unmanned Expeditionary (MUX) Medium-Altitude, High-Endurance (MALE) aircraft. This squadron event provided a unique opportunity to formally unveil and introduce the operational MQ-9A to VMU-3 Marines, family members and distinguished guests.

“It is imperative that we aggressively pursue advanced capabilities to meet security demands of the 21st-century operating environment,.":said Lt. Col. Nicholas Law, commanding officer of VMU-3.

VMU-3 has operated a variety of Remotely Piloted Aircraft since its activation on September 12, 2008. In its nearly 15-year history, VMU-3 has participated in numerous operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Republic of the Philippines, support to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, and various other theater activities in support of U.S. allies and partners. Today’s commemoration marks a new chapter for VMU-3 and a tremendous milestone for Marine Corps aviation with this new capability now readily available in the Indo-Pacific region.

“It is imperative that we aggressively pursue advanced capabilities to meet security demands of the 21st-century operating environment,” said Lt. Col. Nicholas Law, the commanding officer of VMU-3. “We will utilize these assets to devote comprehensive maritime domain awareness, serving as wayfinders for our combined and Joint Forces. VMU-3 is ready, and we are playing for keeps,” Law added.

Kahu Charles Naumu, the President of the Koolau Poko Hawaiian Civic Club, preceded the ceremonial unveiling of the aircraft with a sacred and honored Hawaiian blessing and prayer to the VMU-3 Ohana and the MQ-9A. Naumu also presented Law with a Hawaiian feather Kahili. Following the blessing, Law and Sgt. Maj. Andrew B. Radford, sergeant major of VMU-3, removed the pitot static covers symbolizing the MQ-9A’s official operational introduction to the squadron.

“This is a historic day for Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 24 and VMU-3. The speed of innovation has been remarkable,” said Lt. Gen. Michael S. Cederholm, the Deputy Commandant of Aviation and the guest of honor. “Force Design implies something in the future, but as you can see, the future is here. Force Design is no longer a concept, Force Design is here and that should bring great comfort to the American people,” Cederholm added.

VMU-3 stands as the only U.S. Marine Corps unit in this region to employ the MQ-9A, which emphasizes the institution’s commitment to modernization and staying at the forefront of technological advancements for Marine Corps Aviation in the Pacific.

“We see the MQ-9A as a game-changing capability for the Marine Corps and the stand in force. It will serve as the airborne quarterback for littoral maneuver elements from the 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment,” said Col. William G. Heiken, commanding officer of MAG-24.

Spirits are high across the squadron after achieving this historic milestone, however, VMU-3 isn’t resting on its laurels. “We’re never satisfied, and we have more to do,” said Law. The role, mission and importance of VMU-3 and enabling maneuver and refinement of advanced operating concepts for the Marine Corps, Naval, and Joint Force remains their complete and total commitment to excellence.

The MQ-9A MUX/MALE enables long-range surveillance, reconnaissance and data gateway and relay capabilities to support the MAGTF commander and joint forces. VMU-3 looks forward to the transformative role the MQ-9A MUX/MALE will play in supporting Force Design 2030. For more information about VMU-3 or the MQ-9A please contact Marine Aircraft Group 24 Communication Strategy and Operations, https://www.1stmaw.marines.mil/Subordinate-Units/Marine-Aircraft-Group-24/

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