Navy completes first ship-based flight of Boeing Insitu’s RQ-21A small tactical UAS
The Navy completed this week the first flight at sea of its RQ-21A small unmanned aerial system, the service said Feb. 12.
The maiden flight of the Boeing Insitu-built RQ-21A Small Tactical Unmanned Air System (STUAS) was launched from and recovered by the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS Mesa Verde (Landing Platform Dock 19), the Naval Air Systems Command said.
The flight at sea followed three months of land-based trial flights at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division at China Lake, Calif., before launching from the ship.
The 7.2-feet-long RQ-21A weighs 125 lbs., has an air speed of 80 knots and can fly as high as 15,000 feet. The RQ-21A's range is 50 nautical miles. It can carry a variety of payloads, including electro-optical/infrared, communications relay, automated identification system, laser range finder, and infrared pointer.
The Navy plans to use the RQ-21A to perform persistent maritime and land-based tactical reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition (RSTA) data collection and distribution, according to NAVAIR.
The RQ-21A will give the Navy persistent RSTA support for tactical maneuver decisions and unit-level force defense and force protection for its ships, Marine Corps land forces and special warfare units, NAVAIR said.
William Welsh is the managing editor of Defense Systems. Follow him on Twitter: @WilliamWelsh12.