Marines witnessed the first flight of its newest small unmanned aircraft on Jan. 22 at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif., the Naval Air Systems Command said Wednesday.
As part of the RQ-21A Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System (STUAS) Early Operational Capability (EOC), personnel from Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron (VMU) 2 and 3 and operators from Boeing subsidiary Insitu operators exercised the current configuration of the Insitu Integrator for the two-hour maiden flight.
“The lessons learned from this flight and all operations that will be conducted at Twentynine Palms are invaluable,” said Lt. Col. John Allee, STUAS integrated product team co-lead. “It will help our Marines fully understand how to operate the system when in theater.”
Insitu, based in Bingen, Wash., delivered one EOC system, which is the current configuration of the its Integrator UAS, to Twentynine Palms in January. The EOC contract option allows for up to 30 months of contractor-provided training and logistics services for the Integrator system.
The deployment for EOC allows the Navy and Marine Corps to train operators, collect additional performance data and support development for Initial Operational Capability (IOC). The government-industry team will continue to develop the RQ-21A configuration for initial and full operational capability while the EOC system is deployed with VMU-3, NAVAIR said.
RQ-21A will have payload capacity to support multi missions in a single sortie. Its sensor package will include Electro-Optic, mid-wave infrared cameras with an infrared marker and laser rangefinder. RQ-21A will eventually replace the Navy and Marine ISR services contract in which current ISR missions are conducted in Iraq, Afghanistan and shipboard.