Boeing Insitu RQ-21 Blackjack

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RQ-21 Blackjack
RQ-21A Small Tactical Unmanned Air System (STUAS).jpg
Sailors recover a RQ-21A Small Tactical Unmanned Air System (STUAS)
Role unmanned air vehicle
National origin United States
Manufacturer Insitu wholly owned subsidiary of
Boeing Defense, Space & Security
First flight 28 July 2012
Introduction April 2014
Status In service
Primary users United States Marine Corps
United States Navy
Number built 109 systems with 5 air vehicles each (estimated through FY2017)[1][2][3][4]
Program cost US$559 million (estimated U.S. DoD cost for 104 systems through FY2017)[3]
Developed from Boeing Insitu ScanEagle

The Boeing Insitu RQ-21 Blackjack, formerly called the Integrator, is an American unmanned air vehicle designed and built by Boeing Insitu to meet a United States Navy requirement for a small tactical unmanned air system (STUAS).[5] It is a twin-boomed, single-engined, monoplane, designed as a supplement to the Boeing Scan Eagle.[5] The Integrator weighs 61kg (135lb) and uses the same launcher and recovery system as the Scan Eagle.[5]

Design[edit]

The RQ-21A Blackjack is designed to support the U.S. Marine Corps by providing forward reconnaissance. A Blackjack system is composed of five air vehicles and two ground control systems. The air vehicles can be launched on land or on a ship by a rail and land using a "skyhook" recovery system, where a vertical wire must be hooked onto its wing; when on the ground, the launch and recovery systems are towable by vehicles. Its wingspan is 16 ft (4.9 m) and it can carry a 39 lb (18 kg) payload. The day/night camera can achieve resolution rating of 7 on the NIIRS scale at 8,000 ft (2,400 m). The Marines are working with Insitu to modify the Blackjack fuselage to carry greater and more various payloads. Enlarging the fuselage would increase its maximum takeoff weight from 135 lb (61 kg) to 145 lb (66 kg) and lengthen endurance from 16 hours to 24 hours. New turrets are being explored as well as other payloads including a synthetic aperture radar to track ground targets, a laser designator to mark targets for precision-guided munitions, and foliage-penetration capabilities for foreign customers operating in lush environments.[6]

Development[edit]

The RQ-21 was selected in June 2010 over the Raytheon Killer Bee, AAI Aerosonde, and General Dynamics/Elbit Systems Storm.[6]

The RQ-21A Integrator first flew on 28 July 2012.[5]

On 10 September 2012, the Integrator entered developmental testing with a 66-minute flight. The Navy launched one using a pneumatic launcher and a recovery system known as Skyhook. This eliminates the need for runways and enables a safe recovery and expeditionary capability for tactical missions on land or sea. At the current testing rate, Initial Operational Capability (IOC) was expected in 2013.[7]

On 10 February 2013, the Integrator completed its first at-sea flight from the USS Mesa Verde San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock. This followed completing three months of land-based flights.[8]

On 19 February 2013, Insitu completed the first flight of the RQ-21A Block II. It weighs 121 lb and flew for 2 hours. It was controlled by a new ground control system meant to integrate dissimilar UAV systems. The Block II has the sensor from the Nighteagle, the night version of the ScanEagle, and is designed to operate in high-temperature environments.[9]

On 15 May 2013, the Department of the Navy announced that the RQ-21A Integrator received Milestone C approval authorizing the start of low rate initial production. With Milestone C approval, the Integrator entered production and deployment.[10]

On 12 June 2013, the RQ-21A completed its first East Coast flight from Webster Field Annex, starting the next phase of tests for the Integrator. The UAV was launched with a pneumatic launcher, flew for 1.8 hours, and was recovered with an Insitu-built system known as the STUAS Recovery System (SRS), which allows safe recovery of the STUAS on land or at sea. This phase of testing was to validate updates made to the aircraft which include software, fuselage, and camera enhancements. The Integrator was test flown at lower density altitudes. Integrated Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) was scheduled for October 2013.[11]

In September 2013, the Integrator was renamed the RQ-21A Blackjack. On 28 November 2013, the U.S. Navy awarded Boeing Insitu an $8.8 million contract for one low-rate production aircraft in preparation for full-rate production.[12]

In January 2014, the first low-rate production RQ-21A Blackjack began IOT&E for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. Testing was conducted over the next several months to demonstrate its effectiveness in realistic combat conditions.[13] The Navy ordered three Blackjack systems in December 2014.[14]

Operational history[edit]

The Marine Corps deployed its first RQ-21A Blackjack system to Afghanistan in late April 2014. One Blackjack system is composed of five air vehicles, two ground control systems, and launch and recovery support equipment. It supports intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions using multi-intelligence payloads including day and night full-motion video cameras, an infrared marker, a laser range finder, a communications relay package, and automatic identification system receivers.[15] The models in Afghanistan were early operational capability (EOC) aircraft without shipboard software or testing. Deploying the aircraft on the ground was a way to catch and fix problems early on that could delay the project.[6] The RQ-21 returned from its deployment on 10 September 2014 after flying nearly 1,000 hours in 119 days in theater. EOC Blackjacks will continue to be used for training, while completion of shipboard testing is planned to result in the system's first ship-based deployment in spring 2015.[16]

Operators[edit]

 United States
 Netherlands

Unidentified Middle Eastern customer purchased six systems.[6]

Specification[edit]

Data from [18]Product Page

General characteristics

  • Length: 8.2 ft (2.5 m)
  • Wingspan: 16 ft (4.9 m)
  • Max takeoff weight: 135 lb (61 kg)

Performance

  • Maximum speed: 104 mph; 167 km/h (90 kn)
  • Cruise speed: 63 mph (55 kn; 101 km/h)
  • Endurance: 24 hours
  • Service ceiling: 19,500 ft (5,944 m)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (April 2012). "Department of Defense Report to Congress on Future Unmanned Aircraft Systems Training, Operations, and Sustainability". U.S. Department of Defense. Retrieved 18 September 2013. 
  2. ^ "The Boeing Insitu RQ-21 Integrator UAV is expected to reach operational capability in the US military during 2013.". Military Factory. 2013-03-04. Retrieved 18 September 2013. 
  3. ^ a b "APPROPRIATION/BUDGET ACTIVITY 1319: Research, Development, Test & Evaluation, Navy BA 7: Operational Systems Development". PE 0305234M: (U)RQ-21A (STUASL0). U.S. Navy. February 2012. pp. 1, 3. Retrieved 18 September 2013. 
  4. ^ OFFICE OF THE UNDER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE (COMPTROLLER) / CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER. "PROGRAM ACQUISITION COST BY WEAPON SYSTEM". UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE FISCAL YEAR 2014 BUDGET REQUEST. U.S. Department of Defense. p. 12. Retrieved 18 September 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d RQ-21A Integrator completes first flight
  6. ^ a b c d e U.S. Marine Corps Explores Extended-Range Blackjack - Aviationweek.com, 12 May 2014
  7. ^ Navy, Marines Begin RQ-21 Developmental Flight Testing - Newsmilitary.com, September 11, 2012
  8. ^ RQ-21A Small Tactical Unmanned Air System Completes First Ship-Based Flight - NAVAIR.Navy.mil, February 12, 2013
  9. ^ Insitu completes RQ-21A Block II first flight - Flightglobal.com, February 19, 2013
  10. ^ Navy and Marine Corps Small Tactical UAS Enters Production Phase - NAVAIR.Navy.mil, May 21, 2013
  11. ^ RQ-21A Small UAS Completes First East Coast Flight - Navy.mil, 14 June 2013
  12. ^ Navy buys one Insitu RQ-21A Blackjack UAV in preparation for ramping-up production - sUASNews.com, 29 November 2013
  13. ^ RQ-21A Blackjack begins operational test phase - NAVAIR.Navy.mil, 28 January 2014
  14. ^ US NAVAIR orders three Blackjack UAV systems - Flightglobal.com, 8 January 2015
  15. ^ Marines deploy with 1st, unmanned RQ-21A Blackjack system - Asdnews.com, 8 May 2014
  16. ^ Small UAS returns from first operational deployment - NAVAIR.Navy.mil, 25 September 2014
  17. ^ Article about ScanEagle and RQ-21 - dutchdefencepress.com, Oktober 12, 2012
  18. ^ http://www.insitu.com/systems/integrator