The RQ-21A Blackjack unmanned aerial system was launched for the first time in Hawaii by Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 3 on Oct. 15, at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay.
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.
“The addition of the next-gen RQ-21A Blackjack to the already robust Hawaii-based aircraft group increases the capability of 1st Marine Aircraft Wing and makes us a more lethal fighting force,” said U.S. Marine Col. Stephen Lightfoot, commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group 24.
As forward deployed naval forces in the Indo-Pacific, the expeditionary nature of the Blackjack, which can be launched and recovered without a runway, greatly improves the capability of the Hawaii-based Marine Air-Ground Task Force, according to Lightfoot.
Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 3, call sign ‘Phantoms,’ is one of only three active duty Marine unmanned aerial vehicle squadrons in the Marine Corps and is responsible for providing shore and ship-based aerial surveillance to III Marine Expeditionary Force units stationed throughout the Indo-Pacific.
The RQ-21A Blackjack replaces the RQ-7B Shadow, which flew its last flight in the Marine Corps at Marine Corps Base Hawaii on July 29, during Exercise Rim of the Pacific 2018.