About a third of $10 million contract to impact base

Cherry Point will receive about one third of a $10 million contract in support of unmanned aerial vehicles.

Insitu Inc., of Bingen, Wash., has been awarded the $10,056,486 contract in support of the RQ-21A Blackjack, a new unmanned aircraft system, according to the federal registry.

The contract will be divided between Cherry Point, which will receive 35 percent, and Yuma, Ariz., which will receive 35 percent. Work is also expected in, Bingen, Wash., and Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.

“Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 2 will use the funds for logistics, training, data reporting and field representative support,” said Lt. Maida Zheng, of the Cherry Point Public Affairs Office.

The money for the contract comes from Fiscal 2016 procurement funds for the Marine Corps by Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md.

“This year, the RQ-21A Blackjack from VMU-2 will support its first-ever deployment with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit stationed in Camp Lejeune,” said Zheng. “The RQ-21A Blackjack brings the Marine Expeditionary Force and the Marine Expeditionary Units a dedicated system capable of supporting multiple aviation missions, such as aerial reconnaissance.”

According to the 2016 Marine Aviation Plan, the RQ-21A Blackjack “enhances the capabilities of MEU and regimental-sized units by providing a long endurance, expeditionary, multi-mission platform that is shipboard capable.”

The system can operate from land-based forward operating bases and “will increase battlespace awareness and influence of the electromagnetic spectrum.”

The Blackjack can carry a variety of payloads, many of which are still in development.

VMU-2 is familiar with the Blackjack. The squadron received three in 2015. This year, the number is to double to six, part of a multi-year transition to the Blackjack through 2024.

The Blackjack is propeller-powered and launched from a large trailer-mounted slingshot and recovered by a cable. With a wingspan of 16 feet, the Blackjack has a range of 50 nautical miles and an operating ceiling of 19,000 feet, according to the Marine Corps. It can operate at day or night, can capture full motion video, uses electro-optical and infrared cameras, use a laser rangefinder and can operate as a communications relay, among other uses.

VMU-2 is part of a growing number of Marine Corps units using unmanned aerial vehicles.

It was announced Monday that VMU-2 had won the John I. Hudson Award for VMU Squadron of the Year by the Marine Corps Aviation Association. The award will be presented with other Marine Corps aviation awards at the organization’s symposium in New Bern in May.

VMU-2 is part of Marine Air Group 14, part of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, based at Cherry Point.