The RQ-21A, a small tactical unmanned aircraft system (STUAS) being developed for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, is still on track to begin initial operational capability with a Marine Expeditionary Unit on a Navy amphibious ship in mid 2014, the program manager said Aug.13.
The twin-boomed, 135-pound UAV completed land-based testing in December but officials still want to do about a dozen more hours of shipborne testing to see how the system handles in stronger winds, Marine Corps Col. Jim Rector, the STUAS program manager for the Navy and Marine Corps.
He said the catapult-launched UAV had no issues at sea but the ship had some steering issues and the winds were calm during the test period “so we're going to get back out on the boat in the next couple months to try and to get much more data on the ship.”
Rector, the head of PM-263 at NAS Pax River, said initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) was scheduled for late October and that the RQ-21A was “tracking well” for IOC in 2014.
The RQ-21A is a bigger, heavier version of the Insitu Scan Eagle UAV. Like the Scan Eagle and the follow-on Integrator drone, it can be launched and recovered from land or aboard a ship. It is often referred to as a flying pickup truck because it has a payload bay that can carry a variety of modular mission payloads.
(Written by John Doyle)