MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. -- Marines with the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing broke ground here June 5 at the site of what will soon be the new home for Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 2’s RQ-21 Blackjacks.
The Blackjack is the newest addition to the squadron’s arsenal of unmanned aerial vehicles.
“The large area maintenance deployable shelters will provide VMU-2 space to conduct maintenance and provide shelter for the new unmanned aerial system being fielded,” said Maj. Keith Warren, the logistics officer with MAG-14. “The project will cost approximately $600,000 and has an estimated completion date of Nov. 20.”
The Marine Corps’ RQ-21 Blackjack will replace the current UAS, the RQ-7B Shadow. The Blackjack has the capability to supply intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and communications transitions to troops nonstop for up to 12 hours per day.
The Blackjack operates on a completely independent launch and recovery system. The system allows the Blackjack to take off and be recovered from an expeditionary or urban environment, as well as from the deck of Navy ships.
“Before the construction began of the (shelters), the RQ-21 was being housed at VMU-2, with no designated hangar due to limited space,” according to Capt. Seth Ford, the supply and logistics officer with VMU-2. “The (shelters) will benefit VMU-2 because they are cost effective, easy to set up and will give an incredible amount of space for us to move the vast majority of aviation maintenance and personnel to the new location.”
VMU-2 will house three RQ-21 Blackjacks upon completion of the shelters.
“VMU-2 has been working closely with joint entities from several squadrons and departments since summer 2013,” said Ford. “Those involved have worked together in the development of VMU-2’s expansion, interim facilities project to increase hangar, maintenance workspace, and maintenance administration space to allow acceptance of nine new RQ-21 systems by 2020 with the continued ownership of three Shadow systems.”
Immediately following the ceremony, teams began removing trees and bulldozing the area for construction.
“This marks a relatively large step in the future of Marine aviation,” said Ford. “Not only in expanding VMU-2’s real estate and increasing our capabilities, but also in legitimizing and aligning the unmanned aviation community under the rightful care of a Marine aircraft group. The future is bright for VMU-2 under MAG-14 leadership, and together we will continue expanding Marine aviation in ways never thought possible.”