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Insitu awarded RQ-21 Blackjack drone contract for US Marines and Poland

Boeing subsidiary Insitu was awarded an almost $54 million contract for RQ-21 Blackjack drones and related equipment for the U.S. Marine Corps and Poland, a U.S. Department of Defense release said.

The $53,965,378 firm-fixed-price contract to “procure four full-rate production, Lot II RQ-21A Blackjack unmanned aircraft systems and eight attrition air vehicles; seven for the Marine Corps and one for the government of Poland” is expected to be completed in June 2019, the Tuesday, August 21 release said.

The contract includes the procurement of “ground control stations, launch and recovery equipment, shipboard equipment kits as well as systems engineering and program management support,” the release added.

The foreign military sales component of the contract amounted to $1.2 million or 2 percent.

In March, Poland ordered one RQ-21A Blackjack unmanned aircraft system, including the air vehicle, ground control station, launch and recovery equipment and systems engineering and program management. The $11,357,809 contract was due to be completed in July 2018.

RQ-21A Blackjack drone launch
US Marines launch an Insitu RQ-21A Blackjack drone during Frozen Reindeer in Rena, Norway, May 21, 2018. Image: US Marine Corps/Sgt. Joselyn Jimenez

The RQ-21A Blackjack is a military version of Insitu’s Integrator drone.

It first flew in February 2013 and the U.S. Navy received two Blackjack systems in July 2015. Last month the U.S. Marine Corps conducted its final mission with Textron’s RQ-7B Shadow, replacing it with the Blackjack.

The RQ-21A is basically a more-capable version of the ScanEagle. It has a wingspan of 4.9 m (15.7 feet) and Insitu says it has a ceiling greater than 20,000 feet and an endurance greater than 16 hours with a cruise speed of 60 knots.

Its standard payload configuration includes an electro-optic imager, a mid-wave infrared imager, a laser rangefinder and infra-red marker, but the system’s modular design enables rapid customization with imagers, communication systems, electronic warfare systems and signals intelligence capabilities.

The air vehicle is pneumatically launched from a trailer and recovered using Insitu’s SkyHook system.

Insitu RQ-21 Blackjack drone recovery
US Marines use a SkyHook to recover an Insitu RQ-21A Blackjack unmanned aerial vehicle on the flight deck of the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS San Diego (LPD 22), September 27, 2017. Image: US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Justin A. Schoenberger
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