Monday, October 10, 2016

Marine Special Operators Fly New Surveillance Drone in Iraq |

Marine Special Operators Fly New Surveillance Drone in Iraq | Earlier this summer, at least one team of Raiders from Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command deployed to Iraq with a new drone that will give them a broader picture of what's happening on the battlefield.

The RQ-21A Blackjack, which reached initial operational capability for the Marine Corps in January, is deployed with MARSOC as part of a wide-ranging experimental effort to get new equipment and technology into the hands of Marines more rapidly.

Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, commander of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, said the drone's deployment was one element of a strategy to incorporate MARSOC into these broader Marine Corps efforts.

"We can benefit from what [U.S. Special Operations Command] does, from what we're doing, bring that back and go, 'OK, this is what we need to do with equipping the RQ-21,' or concepts of employment that they will use in real-world operations, and not just training," Walsh told in a September interview. "We'll be able to get them out there with their [Marine Special Operations Teams] in Iraq, operating with Iraqis as part of their special ops forces."

The Blackjack, made by Boeing subsidiary Insitu, weighs about 80 pounds unloaded and has a range of about 50 nautical miles, with the ability to fly for 16 hours at a stretch. Uniquely, the Blackjack uses a tail hook recovery system that makes it capable of operating from a ship -- a key capability for the Marine Corps.