The Insitu RQ-21 Integrator small tactical unmanned air system (STUAS) has been cleared to enter low rate initial production (LRIP) by the US Navy, one more step to entering service.
The Navy has ordered 36 systems of five aircraft each, for use by the Navy and Marine Corps, to augment and replace the ScanEagle upon which it is based. Initial operating capability (IOC) is planned for 2014. Though early operational capability was declared in 2011, no deployments beyond the Marine Corps base at Twentynine Palms, California are planned.
"The expeditionary nature of the RQ-21A makes it possible to deploy a multi-intelligence capable UAS with minimal footprint, ideal for amphibious operations such as a Marine Expeditionary Unit conducts," says Col. Jim Rector, the Navy's programme manager. "The RQ-21A can be operated aboard ship, and then rapidly transported ashore as either a complete system or just a 'spoke', or control center, making this system ideally suited for humanitarian or combat operations, where getting real-time intelligence to the on-scene commander is crucial."
RQ-21 can carry up to 25lb (11.3kg) payload, easily swappable. Though intended for use as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platform, concepts publicly discussed include mounting a magnetic anomaly detector for finding submarines and small missiles for very light strike missions.