The U.S. Marine Corps and Navy have begun receiving their new UAV; the RQ-21A Blackjack. The first RQ-21A system (five UAVs, two control systems plus launch and maintenance gear) recently arrived in Afghanistan where it is being used in combat for the first time by marines.
The RQ-21A is basically a larger Scan Eagle, which it is replacing. RQ-21A is a 55 kg (121 pound) UAV, which has a 4.9 meter (16 foot) wingspan and can fly as high as 4,500 meters (15,000 feet) at a cruise speed of 100 kilometers an hour. RQ-21A can stay in the air up to 24 hours and can carry a payload of 23 kg (50 pounds). It uses the same takeoff and landing equipment as the Scan Eagle. RQ-21A also uses many of the Scan Eagle sensors, in addition to new ones that were too heavy for Scan Eagle. The additional weight of the RQ-21A makes it more stable in bad weather or windy conditions.
The Scan Eagle weighs 19 kg (40 pounds), has a 3.2 meter (ten foot) wingspan, and uses day and night video cameras. It uses a catapult for launch and can be landed via a wing hook that catches a rope hanging from a 16 meter (fifty foot) pole. There is also a smaller CLRE (Compact Launch and Recovery System) for ship use. On land Scan Eagle can also land on any flat, solid surface.
The Scan Eagle can stay in the air for up to 15 hours per flight and fly as high as 5 kilometers (16,000 feet). Scan Eagles cruising speed is 110 kilometers an hour and it can operate at least a hundred kilometers from the ground controller. Scan Eagle carries an optical system that is stabilized to keep the cameras focused on an object while the UAV moves. Scan Eagle has been flying for over a decade now and has been in military service since 2005.