Blackjack UAVs

The US Marine Corps achieved initial operational capability with the RQ-21A Blackjack earlier this year. Here the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit retrieves an RQ-21A aboard the USS San Diego (LPD 22) in October 2017.
Lance Cpl Jeremy Laboy/US Marine Corps

The US Department of Defense has awarded Insitu a $9.2 million contract to provide spare parts and support services to US Marine Corps RQ-21A Blackjack unmanned air systems.

Blackjack systems, which consist of five unmanned aerial vehicles and one (ship) or two (ground) control stations plus support equipment, are currently used by both the US Navy and US Marine Corps.

The RQ-21A achieved early operational capability with the Marines in 2014 and initial operational capability (IOC) earlier this year. It is replacing the AAI RQ-7B Shadow, which the Marines are planning to phase-out within five years. Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1 (VMU-1) based at MCAS Yuma, Arizona, completed re-equipping with the Blackjack in October.

Procurement funding for four Blackjack systems was included in the FY2018 budget request. The current programme of record is for 32 US Navy systems (planning to achieve IOC in 2018) plus 25 for the Marines. Currently there are five approved mission payloads for the Blackjack and several more being developed. David C Isby