RQ-7B Shadow retired

A technician with Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 4 (VMU-4) returns an RQ-7 Shadow to the VMU-4 hangar at Marine Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California. The squadron flew the last RQ-7B flight by the Marine Corps at Twentynine Palms on December 11.
US Marine Corps

The United States Marine Corps flew its last AAI RQ-7B Shadow UAS flight during Exercise Steel Knight, held at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, on December 11.

The final flight was flown during the exercise by Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 4 (VMU- 4), a Marine Forces Reserve unit assigned to Marine Aircraft Group (MAG-41). The Marine Corps has been leasing the Shadow system from the United States Army since 2014, and is now replacing it with the lager Boeing-Insitu RQ-21A Blackjack. Following a period of operational test and evaluation, training on the RQ-21 system will begin in March.

VMU-4’s Operations Officer Captain Shanna Ream said: “The final flight was the last of our evolution for Steel Knight and also our last Shadow flight in the Marine Corps. We have been flying the Shadow for a very long time; it is a system that we deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. It has a lot of capabilities and it’s been in the fight for a long time.”

During the exercise, the Shadow flew missions of between six and nine hours’ duration at a distance of 25km (13.5 nautical miles) and a speed of 90kts (165km/h).

Captain Ream added: “For most of our missions with the Shadow we did a lot of control of indirect fire. We participated in close air support, aerial escort and then expedition operations. The RQ-21A Blackjack is going to bring a lot of capabilities to the fight. Because of its upgraded features, we will have a smaller footprint than we did with the Shadow, and we couldn’t be more excited for it.” Nigel Pittaway