The US Navy has grown its Boeing Insitu RQ-21A Blackjack low-rate production order to 11 with a $78 million Lot 4 order for six more Blackjack unmanned aircraft systems, which includes 30 air vehicles and 12 catapult launchers and SkyHook recovery systems.
According to a Navy spokeswoman, two out of the 11 full-up Blackjack units have been delivered to date and each system consists of five RQ-21As and two launch and recovery units.
The contract awarded on 24 July includes the six Blackjack systems plus spare parts, ground control stations and system engineering and program management services. Delivery is expected in September 2016.
The Blackjack is a larger, twin-tailed follow-on to the Insitu Integrator UAV and was developed for the navy’s Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System programme beginning in 2010. It has a maximum gross takeoff weight of 61kg (135lb) and can patrol from an altitude of 19,500ft for up to 16h with an operating radius of 50nm.
Naval Air Systems Command says the current requirement if for 25 Blackjack systems (125 aircraft) and the Marines need 32 (160 aircraft).
A contracting notice posted in May forecast an order of eight Blackjack units as part of Lot 5 and nine units in Lot 6 – pending a full-rate production decision and adequate funding from Congress.
The RQ-21A’s electro-optical/infrared sensor ball can capture day and night full-motion video and has a mid-wave infrared imager. The UAV also has a laser rangefinder capability and can act as a communications relay.
This latest production contract follows a $42 million order in January for three Blackjack units from Insitu.