Mar 03 2015
The U.S. Navy is purchasing three RQ-21A Blackjack small tactical unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Boeing Insitu Inc. in Bingen, Wash., to provide information, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities for tactical commanders in the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy.
The $41.1 million contract was awarded by the Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md.
The RQ-21A Blackjack is 8.2 feet long, has a 16-foot wingspan, weighs 81 pounds, and carries multi-sensor payloads in a under-nose pod. The UAV uses a pneumatic launcher and net-style recovery system, allowing it to be launched and recovered on both sea and land.
Blackjack’s maximum payload weight is 39 pounds with its standard payload configuration of an electro-optic imager, a mid-wave infrared imager, a laser rangefinder, an infrared marker, and a communications relay and automatic identification system.
Key features of the Blackjack, according to Insitu, are the rapid integration of new payloads for expanded mission sets; its roll-on, roll-off capability that supports ship-to-objective maneuvers; its minimal footprint that accommodates small sites and deck operations; and the fact it is expeditionary and runway independent to support tactical missions on land and sea.
The RQ-21A Blackjack features an endurance of up to 16 hours and has a ceiling of 19,500 feet. Blackjack uses an 8-horsepower reciprocating engine with electronic fuel injection and can ingest both JP-5 and JP-8 fuel. It’s cruising speed is 60 knots, and its maximum horizontal speed is in excess of 90 knots.
The RQ-21A Blackjack started its development in 2010 for the Navy and Marine Corps and was the first organic and dedicated multi-intelligence unmanned aerial system available to Marine and Navy tactical commanders.
The Navy expects Blackjack to provide real time situational awareness information to its ships, Navy special warfare units and expeditionary combat command forces, and Marine Corps land forces.
The Marine Corps will use Blackjack for dedicated real-time ISR for its expeditionary forces, divisions, and regiments, with information being delivered to a tactical commander.
About the author: Alan M. Petrillo is a Tucson, Ariz., journalist who writes for national and regional magazines and newspapers. He’s the author of the historical mystery, Full Moon; the nonfiction work, Ice Hockey in the Desert; and his newest historical mystery, Asylum Lane, all available at www.amazon.com.