NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. ― A U.S. Marine Corps experiment that has deployed a counter-drone system on a Polaris MRZR all-terrain vehicle to the Mideast is winding down, according to a Corps official.
The Light Marine Air Defense Integrated System, or LMADIS, comprises two MRZR vehicles, a command node and a sensor vehicle, that uses RF to jam flying drones. The capability has been deployed by U.S. Central Command, though the Marine Corps is not disclosing exactly where the system is operating or how many are deployed.
It’s an offshoot of the MADIS program of record, which is expected to support the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, with counter-UAS and a “hard kill” weapons systems. The highly mobile “gap-filler” LMADIS can be carried on a CH-53 or V-22 Osprey to detect, track, and defeat drones via an electronic warfare system.
“We’re aligned with a deployment schedule so they go out with certain units at a certain point in time,” Capt. Forrest Williams, LMADIS project officer for the Program Executive Office for Land Systems said of the capability. “This effort ends by the end of FY19, but it’s going to be sustained, not by money, but by the amount of equipment that we have. As long as Marines are using the equipment, the program office will supply them.”
PEO Land Systems displayed the LMADIS system at the Sea Air Space show here.
Increasingly, drone technology has found its way into the hands of terrorist groups and ragtag militias. ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria have been known to weaponize small commercial quadcopter drones, dropping small munitions and hand grenades on Iraqi and partner nation forces. Even the Taliban in Afghanistan have gotten in the game, using small drones to film attacks on remote Afghan army outposts.
In U.S. Central Command, Marines are using LMADIS on-the-move to protect convoys or provide a forward operating base with protection from unmanned aerial systems, according to Williams.
Data from the CENTCOM deployment is informing the MADIS program of record, Williams said. For instance, the system has been successful against a range of small commercial systems ― the commercial DJI Phantom 4 Pro, X8 fixed wing and Airhawk among them ― which suggests its strength is in its flexibility and modular nature.
Though the LMADIS is ever-evolving, the Marine Corps has disclosed that it includes an RPS-42 tactical air surveillance radar, small EO/IR camera, Skyview RF Detection system and Sierra Nevada MODi RF jammer.
“I can reprogram the radar, reprogram the optic, or the software on the tablet or something in the MODi,” Williams said. “What we’ve realized is the UAS threat is ever-changing. One day the enemy’s flying Phantom Pros, the next day they’re flying a fixed wing with certain components. What the fleet’s really helping us identify is what they’re flying and how to defeat them, so we can turn back to the fleet and give them a better product to stay up to date with the enemy’s current threats.”
Shawn Snow, of Marine Corps Times, contributed to this report.
Joe Gould was the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He had previously served as Congress reporter.