RQ-21A Blackjack

Unmanned aircraft systems manufacturer Insitu has secured a contract to build six RQ-21A Blackjack systems for the US Navy and Marine Corps.

Valued at $78m, the new small tactical unmanned aircraft systems (STUAS) Lot IV low rate initial production (LRIP) contract represents the programme’s progression toward the initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) phase.

Navy and Marine Corps STUAS programme manager Colonel Eldon Metzger said: "This award will increase the number of systems to the fleet and bring a greater footprint and capability to the Marine Air-Ground Task Force and Naval Special Warfare teams to meet operational demands."

Designed to provide intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and communications relay to troops on land and at sea, the 8ft-long Blackjack air vehicle features open-architecture configuration to enable integration of new payloads quickly.

The vehicle’s 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.

"Blackjack will deliver unparalleled organic intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance coverage."

Insitu president and CEO Ryan M Hartman said: "Blackjack will deliver unparalleled organic intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance coverage."

Fitted with five air vehicles, two ground control systems and launch and recovery equipment, the Blackjack is a larger twin-tailed follow-on to the ScanEagle unmanned air vehicle.

In 2010, Insitu received the STUAS engineering manufacturing development contract from Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) to commence the development of RQ-21A Blackjack.

The UAS programme achieved Milestone C review after in 2013 after engineering and manufacturing development, while the first LRIP system was delivered last year.

Image: A file photo showing an RQ-21A Blackjack being launched at a test range in Boardman, Oregon, US. Photo: courtesy of Insitu Inc.