Blackjack! Insitu scores $41M contract with Navy for UAVs

Insitu, Inc., of Bingen has procured a $41 million contract with the U.S. Navy to deliver three of the company’s Integrator Blackjack un-manned air vehicle (UAV) systems by January 2016.

“We signed the contract on Thursday [Dec. 18] for three RQ-21A Blackjack unmanned systems and we look forward to continuing our support of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps.”

The Pentagon said that work on the contract will be performed at Insitu’s production facility in Bingen, and is scheduled to be completed by January 2016. The Navy said the contract was not competitively awarded. A complete Blackjack system includes launch and recovery equipment.

The online aviation trade magazine Flightglobal reported in June that Blackjack could be “a lucrative platform” for Insitu. The Marines reportedly have a requirement to operate 32 Blackjack systems. Moreover, it was reported that the Navy has plans to acquire 25 Blackjacks, also known as the RQ-21A.

The Blackjack is seen as a “bulkier successor” to Insitu’s nimble ScanEagle. It weighs almost three times as much (135 pounds to 48.5 pounds) and “is capable of performing many of the same missions,” according to Flightglobal.

Moreover, the Blackjack is equipped with an internal bay and a plethora of audio and video surveillance equipment. The bay can hold payloads of up to 5.1 pounds; standard payloads include infrared cameras and communications relay antennae.

The Navy confirmed in June that the Blackjack had been put into operation in Afghanistan with the Marines. According to a June 3 Flightglobal report, the Blackjack deployed with five vehicles nearly four years after Insitu, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Boeing Co., “won the small tactical unmanned air systems contract in August 2010 and more than two years after the Marines took delivery of the first two systems.”

That contract, Flightglobal reported, “included a provision that allowed the Marines to deploy with a raw version of (the Blackjack) called an early operational capability” to test and refine its operational capability for the field.

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