Staff Writer (Updated: 4/25/2016):
Unlike the preceding Scan Eagle design, the Blackjack makes use of a twin-boom configuration utilizing a centralized fuselage nacelle, straight wing assemblies and a rear-mounted engine situated in a "pusher" arrangement (the Scan Eagle was simpler design with no discernible tail section and swept-back wings. Borrowing from its Scan Eagle roots, Insitu has included support for existing Scan Eagle equipment to be used in the function of the Blackjack including its in-house Insitu "SuperWedge" pneumatic catapult launching system and precision "Skyhook" retrieval system, the latter "hooking" the incoming aircraft by a dangling rope atop a mast making contact with a hook fitted to a wingtip. The Blackjack is also dimensionally larger than the preceding Scan Eagle and, therefore, can showcase much improved mission performance specifications. The Blackjack sports a running length of just over 7 feet with a wingspan measuring 16 feet. The available engine fitting (an NWUAV gas / HFE powerplant) supplies the airframe with a cruising speed of 63 miles per hour and a useful mission endurance time of 24 hours. The aircraft's operating service ceiling is listed at 15,000 feet. Overall weight is a manageable 120lbs. All told, the provided specifications make the Blackjack a viable option for at-sea service, being both budget-conscious and portable compared to larger UAV brethren.
The official American military designation for the Blackjack is "RQ-21A". The vehicle recorded its first flight on July 28th, 2012 and has since gone on to complete several requisite over-land and at-sea trials. The Blackjack was most recently (February of 2013) seen in evaluations with the USS Mesa Verde, a San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock. The United States Navy is validating the Blackjack system for possible quantitative procurement which currently is set at 5 air vehicles across 4 complete Blackjack packages. They are joined by the United States Marine Corps which is optimistically eyeing some 32 complete Blackjack systems with 5 air vehicles per package. The Netherlands is the only other notable potential operator and is considering five packages total. It is expected that the Blackjack would see operational service levels reached sometime in 2013-2014 with the US military and 2014 with the Royal Netherlands Army.