The United States Navy and Marine Corps have ordered six RQ-21A Blackjack small tactical unmanned aircraft systems (STUAS) from Insitu Inc.
The unmanned aircraft system is valued at $78 million each. Its primary function is providing surveillance and reconnaissance for troops on land and sea. This contract marks the program’s progression towards the initial test and evaluation phase, as was expressed by Navy and Marine Corps STUAS program manager Colonel Eldon Metzger.
"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," Colonel Metzger said in a statement.
The STUAS is able to quickly integrate new payloads for expanded mission sets, can accommodate small sites and deck operations, and has a minimal footprint. It is expeditionary and runway independent, which allows for support of tactical missions be it by land or by sea. The Blackjack also features roll-on, roll-off capabilities and can support ship-to-objective maneuvers.
Some dimensions and specifications of the small aircraft include:
The configurable payload spaces of the Blackjack are interfaced with a communications relay package, including Ethernet protocol and a data encryption device.
Blackjack has a cruise speed of up to 60 knots, with a max horizontal speed of over 90 knots. It uses an eight horsepower reciprocating engine with EFI. It has a ceiling of nearly 20,000 feet, and an impressive endurance of 16 hours.
Insitu secured a $43.7 million contract from NAVAIR five years ago to develop the RQ-21A Blackjack. Currently, the Marine Corps has a requirement for thirty-two of them, while the Navy says they need twenty-five of the systems.
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