[Avionics Today January 28, 2014] Operational flight-testing has begun with the Naval Air System Command's small Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), the RQ-21A Blackjack.
Built by Insitu, the Blackjack is a larger follow-on to the ScanEagle UAS that the Navy will look to use for land and maritime surveillance. Flight-testing is underway at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif.
Under the Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&AE) phase of testing, NAVAIR will evaluate the effectiveness of the Blackjack in realistic combat situations. According to NAVAIR, standard payloads for the RQ-21A include day and night full-motion video cameras, an infrared marker, a laser range finder, a communications relay package and automatic identification system receivers.
“RQ-21A brings a new level of flexibility and expeditionary capability not present in any UAS to date,” said Lt. Col. Anthony Bolden, commanding officer for the Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron (VMU) 2. “As a result, having and operating the Blackjack will posture the Marine UAV squadrons at the forefront of MAGTF operations.”