Navy begins operational test phase of its RQ-21A Blackjack Tactical
US Navy and Marine Corps' newest small unmanned aircraft system RQ-21A
Blackjack began its initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E)
in early January at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine
As part of IOT&E, this first low-rate initial production (LRIP)
lot of the Blackjack, previously known as RQ-21A Small Tactical Unmanned
Aircraft System (STUAS), will demonstrate the system’s effectiveness
and suitability in realistic combat conditions.
MEXICO (Feb. 10, 2013) The MKIV launcher prepares to launch the RQ-21A
Small Tactical Unmanned Air System (STUAS) from the flight deck of the
San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19)
for its first flight at sea. Mesa Verde is underway conducting exercises.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stuart Phillips/Released)
the first production-level Blackjack is a great accomplishment for our
government and industry team,” said Col. James Rector, program
manager for the Navy and Marine Corps STUAS program office, who oversees
the RQ-21A program. “It is a very capable system that will meet
the needs of our warfighters deployed on land or at sea with our Marine
The Insitu Inc.-built Blackjack is a larger twin-tailed
follow-on to the ScanEagle unmanned air vehicle. The system contains
five air vehicles, two ground control systems, and launch and recovery
Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 1 is conducting
ground and shipboard testing on Blackjack for the next several months.
After completing IOT&E, the government and Insitu team will transition
the system to Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron (VMU) 2, located
at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C. for operational use.
A second LRIP lot, consisting of one system, is scheduled for delivery
in the spring.
Lt. Col. Anthony Bolden, commanding officer for VMU-2,
said the myriad of capabilities that come with the introduction of
Blackjack will provide the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) with
a platform that has the payload and persistence to significantly enhance
“RQ-21A brings a new level of flexibility and
expeditionary capability not present in any UAS to date,” Bolden
said. “As a result, having and operating the Blackjack will
posture the Marine UAV squadrons at the forefront of MAGTF operations.”
At eight feet long and with a wingspan of 16 feet,
Blackjack provides intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and
communications relay to the warfighter on land and at sea. The air
vehicle’s open-architecture configuration can integrate new
payloads quickly and can carry sensor payloads as heavy as 25 pounds.
Standard payloads include day and night full-motion
video cameras, an infrared marker, a laser range finder, a communications
relay package and automatic identification system receivers.
in Naval Use
(Artist Impression: Insitu)