Unmanned aircraft system (UAS) manufacturer Insitu is developing a growth variant of its Integrator, the basis of the U.S. Marine Corps’ RQ-21A Blackjack tactical UAS. The new UAS is aimed at the military market but Insitu offered few other details.
Designed for the Marines’ small tactical UAS requirement, the Integrator has a mtow of 135 pounds, about three times that of its ScanEagle predecessor, and offers a maximum payload of 40 pounds. It has endurance of 24 hours and is launched by the company’s Mark 4 pneumatic wedge catapult and recovered by the SkyHook catch-wire system. Its electronic-fuel-injection, heavy-fuel piston engine is a joint effort of Insitu and Northwest UAV, of McMinnville, Ore.
“Right now, the Integrator is 135 pounds; we’re working on a 165-pound variant that enables us to add a lot more payload capability and a lot more endurance,” Ryan Hartman, Insitu senior vice president programs, told aviation reporters on June 27. The UAS will be for military use but will not carry weapons. “We have something specific in mind” for its application, Hartman said, without elaborating.
In April, Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 2 (VMU-2) deployed with the RQ-21A to Afghanistan, where it has reached 200 hours in theater, Hartman said. The program is entering the final phase of initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) with testing from ships, leading to a full-rate production decision. The Marine Corps requirement is for 32 RQ-21A systems, each comprising five air vehicles, two ground control stations and launch and recovery equipment. The Navy seeks 25 systems.
Insitu expects the Marines will declare initial operational capability with deployment by the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the USS New York amphibious transport dock later this year. “The program is making great progress. We’ve gone through three LRIP (low-rate initial production) iterations now, and we’ll be entering into full-rate production later this year,” Hartman said.
Now in its 20th year, the wholly owned, “non-integrated” Boeing subsidiary based in Bingen, Wash., this year will deliver its 2,000th ScanEagle, which is operated by the U.S. military services and 10 other nations. It has seen a “significant increase” in production over the last several years and recently moved into a 127,000-sq-ft facility, nearly three times larger than its previous facility, which houses ScanEagle, Integrator and ground control station production lines, a warehouse and acceptance testing and research and development facilities.