tle downtime. It is expected to take
a crew of four Marines or Sailors to
operate an RQ-21A system
While the militarized RQ-21A
has been in development, Insitu
provided a commercial version of
the Integrator to the Marine Corps
for testing at the Air Ground Com-
bat Center at Twentynine Palms,
Calif., and at Naval Air Station
Patuxent River, Md. Those aircraft
have been flying since early 2011.
At Twentynine Palms, the UAS
has totaled more than 152 flight
hours in support of Enhanced
Mojave Viper, the Corps’ combined
arms exercise that prepares Marines
for deployment to Afghanistan.
Although the basic concept has
been around for years, Hartman said
the first flight of the RQ-21A was significant because it tested “all of the
improvements that we made,”
Both the Integrator and ScanEagle are launched by a
pneumatic catapult and recovered by a cable on a
“SkyHook” that snags the UAV’s wingtip. Both the
launcher and SkyHook, which require neither nets nor
runway, can be used aboard surface ships. The ScanEagle
has logged 24,500 combat flight hours off destroyers
such as USS Mahan. Future plans call for flying the
STUAS off San Antonio-class amphibious assault ships.
The RQ-21A currently packs a sensor payload in its
nose or a gimbaled ball below the nose. Hartman said
it does have hard points under each wing to carry sen-
sors, extra fuel or other payloads. He declined to spec-
ify whether the UAS was capable of carrying offensive
or defensive weapons, saying only, “Our requirement
for STUAS is ISR and maritime domain awareness, and
that’s what we’re concentrating on now — satisfying
the mission that we’ve been asked to design a system
around. As that mission evolves, as the customer’s
requirements evolve, this system will evolve with it.”
As yet, the RQ-21A does not have a name and
Hartman hopes it keeps the Integrator designation.
Three prospective names proposed by the Navy and
Marine Corps, Hartman won’t say what they were,
were all rejected by the Air Force.
“The Air Force has the final authority in approving
the name of aircraft. I think it’s back to square one. We
kind of like the name Integrator and, hopefully, they’ll
go with that,” he said. ■
U.S. MARINE CORPS
An early version of the RQ-21A small tactical unmanned aircraft system is prepared for launch during a sneak preview of the system Jan. 22 for Marine
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadrons 2 and 3 at Marine Corps Air Ground
Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif.
and dissemination. The RQ-21A is a larger, follow-on
version of Insitu’s Integrator UAS, which in turn grew
out of the ScanEagle that Marines and Sailors have
been using in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2004, logging
more than 600,000 combat flight hours.
The Integrator is designed to carry a bigger payload
than ScanEagle, including day/night full-motion video
cameras, infrared marker, laser range finder and
Automatic Identification System (AIS) receivers for
identifying surface vessels for situational awareness.
Multimission payloads are expected to provide ISR,
communications relaying for up to 15 hours a day, and
a short surge capacity of 24 hours.
Hartman said he had no problem with the description of the RQ-21A as a “flying truck” to carry whatever modular mission payloads are needed.
“In fact, we designed the system around that exact
trend. When we were looking at the design parameters
and carving out our trade space for design, we looked
at it as a cyclical environment, in that air vehicles are
good for 10 years before new technologies enable you
to design a better air vehicle. But new payloads are
becoming available, if not every year, then every other
year. We’ve proven that with ScanEagle. So, yeah, we
are a flying truck,” he said. “It’s a flying truck that’s
going to be around for a long time”
The RQ-21A has an air speed of 80 knots (80 nauti-
cal mph), a service ceiling of 15,000 feet and a range of
50 nautical miles. It has a length of 7. 2 feet, with a wing
span of 16 feet. Payload bays are designed to be “plug
and play” to handle a wide variety of missions with lit-