As part of the radical re-organisation of the US Marine Corps (USMC) under the Force Design 2030 programme, the service has retired its first two Boeing Insitu RQ-21A Blackjack unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
The two RQ-21As – BuNos 169368 and 169369 – were delivered to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (AFB), Arizona, for long-term storage on June 2. Both of the UAVs had previously been operated by Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1 (VMU-1) ‘Watchdogs’ at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma, Arizona, prior to their divesture.
VMU-1 provides aerial surveillance capabilities for I Marine Expeditionary Force – a Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF). The unit operates under the command of Marine Aircraft Group 13 (MAG-13) and the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW).
Aviation Combat Element changes planned under the Force Design 2030 programme include the complete withdrawal of the USMC’s RQ-21A Blackjack fleet. However, the Marine Corps is currently introducing the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) MQ-9A Reaper into service. It will also continue to fly Martin UAV’s VBat vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) UAV for further experimentation.