Boeing Insitu on 28 July completed the first flight milestone of the US Navy and US Marine Corps' RQ-21A Integrator unmanned air vehicle, with six months remaining in the development phase of the programme.
The 1h flight test at an Insitu facility in eastern Oregon will allow the Marines to begin operational testing in August, says Col James Rector, programme manager of PMA-263, the office in Naval Air Systems Command managing the small tactical unmanned air systems (STUAS) programme.
The 61kg (135lb), twin-boomed RQ-21A is designed as a follow-on to the Insitu ScanEagle, a 20kg UAS operated by the USMC and USN since 2004. The new aircraft is designed to carry significantly more payload, and to more easily swap out major sensors. The Integrator shares the same catapult launcher and hooking recovery systems.
The was unveiled in August 2007, and beat three challengers for a long-delayed contract award in 2010.
The USMC and the USN now plan to buy a total of 36 STUAS systems, each of which includes five air vehicles. The USN portion of the programme of record includes only four systems, Rector says.
While the programme remains in development, Insitu delivered a commercial version of the Integrator to the Marines for early testing. The first such system was deployed to the service's base at Twentynine Palms, California, about six months ago, Rector says.