UAS & Robotics

Navy, Marines order up more Blackjack UAS

RQ-21A Blackjack UAS

An RQ-21A Blackjack UAS takes off at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md.

The Navy has awarded a contract modification of $78 million—actually, officially 78 million and one dollar—to drone maker Insitu for a half-dozen more RQ-21A Blackjack unmanned aircraft systems, small aircraft the Navy and Marines use for tactical reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition at sea and on land.

The modification, which covers the vehicles themselves, ground control stations, launch and recovery equipment, spares, and system engineering and program management, is to a contract awarded in December 2014 for three RQ-21A. Both the Navy and the Marine Corps will contribute funding.

The rail-launched RQ-21A Blackjack is a twin-tailed UAS 8.2 feet in length with a wingspan of 16 feet. First selected in 2010 to be a larger follow-on to the Scan Eagle, it can fly for up to 16 hours at speeds reaching 80 knots, and has a minimum range of 50 nautical miles. Balckjacks initially were launched from land; moving to RQ-21A model also enabled shipboard launches.

Plans call for the Marines to have 32 Blackjacks and the Navy to have 25. The Marines took delivery of its first two Blackjack systems in 2011. The UAS’s first shipboard flight came in February 2013, launching from the USS Mesa Verde amphibious transport dock ship.

Defense Systems Update

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