The U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) took delivery of its final RQ-21A Blackjack Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point, North Carolina on June 12.
The final Blackjack UAS was delivered by the Navy and Marine Corps Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program Office (PMA-263). It will be used as a training asset for the Fleet Readiness Detachment (FRD) at MCAS Cherry Point. Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 2 (VMU-2), also located at MCAS Cherry Point, will maintain the system.
VMU 3, located in Hawaii, received their fourth and final system in March completing the squadron deliveries. This closes out the Marine Corps’ total order of 21 Blackjack UAS.
“As we wrap up the production phase of the RQ-21A program for the Marine Corps and Navy, we have also been transitioning to continued sustainment for the fleet to include platform and payload capability improvements,” said PMA-263 Program Manager Col. John Neville.
“While it’s a normal shift in the life of any program, we maintain our focus on system readiness, affordability, and capability improvements to ensure Blackjack remains a critical intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capability that’s relevant for the warfighter.”
Lt. Col. Russell Strange, Medium UAS lead, said the program will also seek to add capability to the system and grow the customer base for foreign military sales.
“Increased capability will include work on command and control, communication systems, avionics, optics, laser designation, and payloads,” Strange said.
The RQ-21A Blackjack replaces the RQ-7B Shadow, which flew its last flight for the Marine Corps at Marine Corps Base Hawaii on July 29, during Exercise Rim of the Pacific 2018.
The Blackjack provides the warfighter with dedicated day and night intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance coverage, target acquisition, and communication relay via a dedicated and cost effective airborne sensor system capable of delivering actionable intelligence to the tactical commander in real time.