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Boeing Insitu awarded $390 million Blackjack and ScanEagle drone contract

Contract includes dozens of drones for the US Marine Corps, US Navy and foreign military sales, including to Canada, Poland and Oman

Boeing subsidiary Insitu was awarded a more than $390 million contract to supply Blackjack and ScanEagle drone systems for the U.S. military and for foreign military sales, the U.S. Department of Defense said in a release.

The $390,390,785 firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract (N00019-19-D-0033) provides for up to 63 RQ-21A Blackjack air vehicles for the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy, the Friday, June 28 release said.

It also provides for up to six RQ-21A unmanned aircraft systems and up to 17 air vehicles for foreign military sales, including to Canada, Poland and Oman.

Insitu will also provide up to 93 ScanEagle unmanned aircraft systems in various configurations.

Training, test and engineering, operations support, maintenance and other services are also included.

Work is expected to be completed in June 2022.

RQ-21 Blackjack drone
US Marines prepare to launch an RQ-21 Blackjack UAS during a Weapons and Tactics Instructors Course at Yuma, Arizona, on Octocber 13, 2017. Image: US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Rhita Daniel

The RQ-21A Blackjack small tactical unmanned aircraft system is a military version of Insitu’s Integrator drone that is capable of operating from land and sea.

It first flew in February 2013 and the U.S. Navy received two Blackjack systems in July 2015. The U.S. Marine Corps conducted its final mission with Textron’s RQ-7B Shadow in July 2018, replacing it with the Blackjack.

RQ-21 Blackjack drone
US Marines prepare to launch an RQ-21 Blackjack UAS during a Weapons and Tactics Instructors Course at Yuma, Arizona, on Octocber 13, 2017. Image: US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Rhita Daniel

The RQ-21A is essentially a larger, 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 at a cruise speed of 60 knots. It can carry a payload of up to 17.7 kg (39 lb).

A single RQ-21A unmanned aircraft system includes five air vehicles with multi-mission payloads, two ground control stations and other equipment.

The 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.

Both the Blackjack and ScanEagle system use a trailer to pneumatically launch the drone, and both are recovered using Insitu’s SkyHook system.

Boeing Insitu ScanEagle drone
A ScanEagle drone sits on its catapult prior to launch. Image: US Marine Corps/Gunnery Sgt Shannon Arledge

The Boeing Insitu ScanEagle drone is a small, portable low-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle that can operate over land and sea.

The UAV has a flight endurance of up to 18 hours and is used for battlefield intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance. It has a wingspan of 3.1 m (10.2 feet), and flies at a cruise speed of 50-60 knots with a flight ceiling of 19,500 feet. The drone can carry a payload of up to 5 kg (11 lb).

A single ScanEagle system reportedly comprises four air vehicles, a ground control station, a remote video terminal and the launch and recovery systems. The drone carries a stabilized electro-optical and/or infrared camera on a lightweight inertial stabilized turret system. It can also carry a miniature synthetic aperture radar.

In June, Insitu was awarded almost $48 million for 34 ScanEagle UAVs for Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam, and in April, Lebanon received six Boeing Insitu Scan Eagle unmanned aerial systems from the U.S.

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