In response to a US Navy request for a small tactical unmanned air system, Boeing released the RQ-21 Blackjack, formerly known as the Integrator.
The appearance of unmanned aerial vehicles is considered a “revolution” in the modern world. UAV has gradually shown its role in all areas of life, especially the military, and threatens to cause a new arms race. In response to a US Navy request for a small tactical unmanned air system, Boeing released the RQ-21 Blackjack, formerly known as the Integrator. The single-engine drone’s primary mission is intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, with a sensor turret containing electro-optical and infrared video cameras mounted underneath the nose.
The RQ-21 Blackjack made its maiden flight on July 28, 2012, and entered service in April 2014. It has a length of 2.5m, a wingspan of 4.9m, an empty weight of 37kg, and a maximum take-off weight of 61kg. The UAV is powered by a reciprocating engine rated at 8hp. The UAV can execute mission for more than 13 hours. It has a ceiling of over 19,500ft and a minimum operating range of 50nm. The maximum horizontal speed and the cruise speeds are 90kt and 60kt respectively.
The RQ-21A Blackjack is designed to support the U.S. Marine Corps by providing forward reconnaissance. A Blackjack system is composed of five air vehicles and two ground control systems. The air vehicles can be launched on land or on a ship by a rail and land using a “skyhook” recovery system, where a vertical wire must be hooked onto its wing; when on the ground, the launch and recovery systems are towable by vehicles.
The U.S. Marine Corps deployed its first RQ-21A Blackjack system to Afghanistan in late April 2014. The standard payload configuration of the RQ-21A includes electro-optic imager, mid-wave infrared imager, laser rangefinder, infrared marker, and automatic identification system receivers. The sophisticated payload allows military units to quickly address the emerging threats. The UAV can carry sensor payloads weighing up to 25lb and can be reconfigured to accommodate new payloads to meet expanded mission requirements.