The United States Marine Corps and Navy are getting ready to deploy the Boeing-Insitu RQ-21A Blackjack, a state-of-the-art unmanned aircraft, this spring. Insitu, which is a Boeing company, designed the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) to perform multiple duties, including supporting infantry regiments.
“Blackjack is still in test and low-rate initial production, but will provide persistent land-based and maritime, tactical [reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition] data collection and dissemination capabilities,” stated Col. Eldon Metzger, program manager for the Navy and Marine Corps small tactical unmanned air systems program office at Naval Air Systems Command.
The RQ-21A Blackjack is eight feet long and has a 16-foot wingspan. It can fly up to sixteen hours at 19,500 feet. Its 8-horsepower engine can reach a max horizontal speed of 90 knots, and cruises at about 60 knots. At 140 pounds, it is very lightweight.
Because of the aircraft’s small size, it can be deployed from amphibious warships when there is not a lot of room, or also on land where there are no airfields. This is extremely useful due to the environments these types of aircrafts usually operate in.
"The majority of the sites we operate in do not have runways. That's why the RQ-21 is so well suited to these environments," says Col. Jim Rector, Navy and Marine Corps Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems program manager.
The aircraft already saw action in Afghanistan when a Marine UAS squadron used one in spring of 2014 for operational land-based tests. It is set for its first maritime deployment in the spring.
Other key features of the RQ-21A Blackjack include:
Insitu was awarded a USD$43.7 million contract back in July of 2010 to design and develop the RQ-21A Blackjack.
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