The U.S. Marine Corps and Navy have begun testing the RQ-21A Blackjack tactical UAV.
Initial operational and test and evaluation is underway at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center 29 Palms, Calif., for the first low-rate initial production Blackjack system, previously known as the RQ-21A Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System.
The UAV, built by Insitu, will undergo several months of ground and shipboard testing by Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 1, according to a Naval Air Systems Command news release. The Blackjack will then be deployed with Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 2, at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C.
A second LRIP Blackjack system will be delivered this spring. Each RQ-21A system contains five UAVs, two ground control systems, and launch and recovery equipment.
“RQ-21A brings a new level of flexibility and expeditionary capability not present in any UAS to date,” said VMU-2 commander Lt. Col. Anthony Bolden. “As a result, having and operating the Blackjack will posture the Marine UAV squadrons at the forefront of MAGTF (Marine Air-Ground Task Force) operations.”
The 135-pound Blackjack is eight feet long and has an endurance of more than 13 hours. It can carry a sensor payload of more than 25 pounds, including day and night cameras, and a laser range finder.