Navy, Marines train on tactical UAS with its own launcher
- By William Welsh
- Sep 12, 2012
The Navy successfully completed a launch of its newest small tactical unmanned aircraft system (STUAS) on Sept. 10 at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, Calif., without using a runway, the Naval Air Systems Command said in a Sept. 11 news release.
During an initial flight test of the multi-intelligence UAS that lasted 66 minutes, operators flew the RQ-21A using a unique pneumatic launcher and a recovery system known as Skyhook, the story said. The system, developed by Insitu, eliminates the need for runways and enables a safe recovery and expeditionary capability for tactical missions on land or sea.
With developmental testing under way, the Navy estimates that the RQ-21A will achieve initial operational capability in 2013, officials said.
While sailors and Marines at China Lake train with the “no runway” approach, Marines at Twentynine Palms, Calif., also are training with an RQ-21A Early Operational Capability system. The stateside deployment allows the the Navy and Marines to train units and operators, collect additional performance data and identify opportunities to expand the flight envelope, the story said.
While both RQ-21A variants are similar to operate, the RQ-21A STUAS is more robust. RQ-21A EOC uses a long-wave infrared camera, which will be replaced with mid-wave infrared camera for production, the story said. The upgraded variant also adds enhanced features for operational security and an automatic identification system for maritime missions.
RQ-21A furnishes expanded payload capacity and rapid payload integration so that warfighters can use the most advanced payload for their unique land and maritime missions and counter-warfare efforts, the story said. The platform provides persistent maritime and land-based tactical reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition data collection and dissemination capabilities to the warfighter.
William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.