RQ-21A Blackjack


The RQ-21A Blackjack, a larger twin-tailed follow-on to the ScanEagle, was selected in 2010 for procurement by the Navy and Marine Corps to fill the requirement for a small tactical unmanned aircraft system (STUAS). The system provides persistent maritime and land-based tactical reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (RSTA) data collection and dissemination capabilities to the warfighter. The air vehicle’s open-architecture configuration can integrate new payloads quickly and can carry sensor payloads as heavy as 25 pounds.


RQ-21A will consist of five air vehicles, two ground control stations and multi-mission payloads that will provide intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and communications relay for up to 12 hours per day continuously with a short surge capability for 24 hours a day. Payloads include day/night full-motion video cameras, infrared marker, laser range finder, communications relay package and Automatic Identification System receivers. Ancillary equipment includes launch/recovery mechanisms, tactical communications equipment and spares.

RQ-21A will have a minimal operating radius of 50 nautical miles and the air vehicle will be capable of airspeeds up to 80 knots with a service ceiling of 15,000 feet density altitude. The fully autonomous launch and recovery system will require minimal space for takeoff and recovery from an unimproved expeditionary/urban environment, as well as from the deck of Navy ships.

The Marine Corps requirement is 32 RQ-21A systems, and the Navy requirement is 25 RQ-21A systems for shipboard, special warfare and expeditionary missions. In July 2010, the Department of the Navy awarded a contract for the design, development, integration and test of RQ-21A. The Marine Corps exercised an early operational capability option and took delivery in late 2011 of two systems.

The RQ-21A completed its first shipboard flight in February 2013 from the amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19). The RQ-21A will be deployed by Marine UAV squadrons.

View RQ-21A Blackjack program guide here


Range: 50 nautical miles
Endurance: up to 16 hrs.
Speed: 80 kts
Ceiling: >19,000 ft.
Wing Span: 16 ft
Length: 8.2 ft
Max takeoff weight: 135 lb.        
Max payload weight: 39 lb.
Standard Payloads: day/night, full-motion video; electro-optical/infrared cameras; mid-wave infrared imager; infrared marker; laser rangefinder; communications relay; Automatic Identification System receivers for shipping traffic data
Contractor: Insitu, Inc.