The Royal Thai Navy (RTN) tested the MARCUS-B (Maritime Aerial Reconnaissance Craft Unmanned System-B) Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) drone developed by the Naval Research and Development Office (NRDO) onboard the HTMS Chakri Naruebet (CVH-911), the country’s sole aircraft carrier.

The news was first reported by AAG th, a local defence blog. The testing were attended by the UAV’s subcontractors, Siam Dry Tech (SDT) Composites, which designed and will produce the carbon-fiber airframe, and Pims Technologies, which created the Tactical-Based Aerial Command Control System.

The MARCUS-B is a fixed-winged unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designed to satisfy the unique requirements of naval forces at sea. It can operate anywhere because to its vertical takeoff and landing capability.

The MARCUS-B UAV is based on the MARCUS drone, which was debuted in March 2021 at the opening ceremony of an RTN naval drill. It’s a little bigger and heavier than the previous model. It measures 2.5 metres in length and 4.3 metres in wingspan. It has a payload capacity of more than 10 kg and a takeoff weight of 45 kilos. Within its operational range of 160-180 kilometres, the new drone can fly at 37 knots while fully loaded.

MARCUS-B has a 60 Ah battery that allows it to fly for about two hours. It can be utilised on frigates, amphibious assault ships, and carriers, among other large navy ships.

Thai government have not disclosed the cost of MARCUS-B, although Thai analysts believe it is a low-cost asset.

After the final trials, MARCUS-B is expected to begin mass production and enter service with the RTN in 2022.

Commentary by the author:

Drones operated from aircraft carriers have proven to be a cost-effective strategy in recent years. The average cost of a shipborne aircraft flight raises the cost of deploying aircraft carriers, putting a pressure on navies’ resources. As a result, navies that use aircraft carriers or LHA/LHDs have started experimenting with employing drones in surveillance and limited strike missions instead of planes.

The Royal Navy, for example, has been working on Project Vixen, which was first announced to the public as a programme to test the use of fixed-wing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from aircraft carriers of the Queen Elizabeth class. The programme is expected to deliver affordability and cost-effectiveness while conducting operations with shipborne F35s. Air early warning (AEW) or air refuelling drones are prioritised in the project over equipment that can support F35B planes as an attack force.

For the first time, the US Navy and Boeing successfully manoeuvred the Boeing-owned T1 test asset aboard a US Navy aircraft carrier — a key step in ensuring that the MQ-25 unmanned aerial refueler will fit smoothly into carrier operations.

After the US pulled out of the project, the Turkish Navy has been working on transforming its next LHD Anadolu into a drone carrier ship, using TB3 Bayraktar unmanned combat aerial vehicles to compensate for the lack of F35B planes.

The UAV/UCAV trend appears to be evolving throughout the next decade, and the Royal Thai Navy’s efforts to keep up with the trend appear to be promising.

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