The RQ-21A Small Tactical Unmanned Aerial System is designed to provide mission flexibility to its primary users — Marine
Expeditionary Units — at a time when the Marine Corps’ focus is shifting from land operations back to the maritime domain.
“The larger footprint … is the logistics and mainte-
nance spaces,” he said. “We’ve got that identified. It’s
not an issue on LPD. Five air vehicles come with the
system, and then we’ve got the launcher.”
Unlike the ScanEagle launcher systems that come
before it, this launcher is moveable and can be stowed
when not in use. Ryan Hartman, Insitu’s senior vice
president of Integrator programs, said the launcher is
only slightly larger than that of a ScanEagle, as is the
Skyhook system that catches the unmanned aircraft
when it returns.
“Both were designed to be integrated onto an LPD
platform or ship, and that integration activity has
taken place,” Hartman said.
Insitu beat out three other companies for the STUAS
contract with its Integrator drone in summer 2010.
The company received a $43.7 million award for engineering and manufacturing development.
The Marines are looking forward to not having
to rely on contracting out ISR services to companies.
Because such systems are contractor owned and
contractor operated, troops can only take the aircraft
into certain areas.
Also, STUAS will be expeditionary, allowing the Marines
to tow a system behind a Humvee for land-based missions,
and with a MEU it can be deployed to land quickly.
However, it may be a little while before the service
can divest itself fully of such services contracts.
Although STUAS is scheduled to reach initial opera-
tional capability (IOC) later this year, the service will
not have a full complement of them for a few years.