The US Marine Corps retired the RQ-7B Shadow unmanned system at the end of the recent Rim of the Paciic exercise at Marine Corps Base Hawaii. Marine Unmanned Air Vehicle Squadron 3 (VMU-3) was the last US Marine Corps unit to use the Shadow, the other squadrons having already transitioned to the RQ-21 Blackjack. VMU-3 itself moved on to the RQ-21 immediately after the exercise.
Captain Mathew Kramer, a UAV commander with VMU-3, said the last flight was the end of an era: “Variances of the RQ-7 have been lying since Operation Desert Storm, throughout the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, right up until operations ceased. It’s exciting to see how the Blackjack will perform.”
Air crew chief Master Sergeant Madhur Sawhney said the RQ-21, which will be launched from San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ships that are part of amphibious ready groups and Marine expeditionary units, is flighter and smaller than its predecessor.
Sgt Sawhney said: “The Blackjack has a smaller footprint, with a 16ft wingspan and a flighter weight distribution at 135lb when wet, with an average flight time of ten hours. Before the Blackjack, a detachment to support the Shadow mission included around 70 Marines, but now it’s decreased to 21 personnel.”