Military officials green light the RQ-21A Blackjack UAS for operation

NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. The RQ-21A Blackjack unmanned aircraft system (UAS) received the green light for operation on January 13 by U.S. Navy and Marine Corps officials.

With the program achieving its Initial Operational Capability (IOC), the first Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron (VMU) is sufficiently manned, trained, and ready to deploy with the RQ-21A system, says Marine Corps Deputy Commandant for Aviation Lt. Gen. Jon Davis.

VMU-2 received the first system from low rate initial production (LRIP) lot 3 last summer and will be in direct support of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), based in Cherry Point, North Carolina. The Marines will make their first shipboard deployment with this system in the summer.

A Blackjack system is comprised of five air vehicles, two ground control systems, including launch and recovery support equipment. It is eight feet long with a wingspan of 16 feet, with an endurance of 10-12 hours.

“Achieving IOC designation means the fleet can now deploy using this critical piece of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance architecture to enhance mission success,” says Col. Eldon Metzger, program manager for the Navy and Marine Corps Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program Office (PMA-263) whose team oversees the Blackjack program.

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