Back in late February I commented on a report (by Murray Brewster of the Canadian Press) that the “Trudeau government [was] quietly shopping for military drones.”
I commended Defence Minister Sajjan for overcoming what I am certain was political and bureaucratic timidity because the misnamed “drones” are certain to stir up some controversy amongst the usual suspects.
But, the government’s information (and propaganda) service tells us that: “The Government of Canada announced today that it is buying an existing unmanned aerial surveillance system, through a government-to-government contractual arrangement (U.S. Foreign Military Sales program) with the U.S. Government. The contract, which is valued at US$14.2 million, includes initial training … The RQ-21A Blackjack is a small unmanned aircraft that will provide the Canadian Army with persistent, real-time intelligence through aerial surveillance and reconnaissance. It is a critical component of the Land Force Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance program. The system will be used for surveillance purposes only and will offer imagery and communication capabilities to help give soldiers an operational advantage in all environments. It will allow Army commanders to immediately identify threats, to take time sensitive decisions, and to respond quickly … Canada is the first foreign military to acquire the system from the U.S. Navy. The system includes five unmanned aircraft, two ground control stations and one launch and recovery system. Each aircraft is capable of providing surveillance coverage of over 100 km for over 12 hours .. [and] … The Blackjack is produced by Boeing Insitu, based in Bingen, Washington. Once delivered to the Canadian Army in 2017, the system will be based out of Canadian Forces Base Gagetown and operated by the 4th Artillery Regiment (General Support).“
So, once again, BZ to the government for doing something right … for taking a first step, anyway.
The RQ-21A Blackjack is, as the press release says, “a small unmanned aircraft that will [do] aerial surveillance and reconnaissance.”
Here are a couple of photos of the Blackjack …
… as you can see it is nowhere near as large (and, therefore, unable to fly long distances, ‘loiter’ over targets and delivery heavy weapon loads) as the US Predator and Reaper UAVs or the Australian’s Israeli designed Heron.
Thus my BZ is somewhat qualified. I am very pleased to see the Blackjack enter Canadian Army service in the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance role but I hope that the military and the government will be looking at more and more capable UAVs for the Navy, Army and RCAF for use on small ships, for long range, long duration reconnaissance and surveillance, and for ground attack, and for services like search and rescue, agricultural and geological research and surveys and fisheries protection.
I assume that the Trudeau cabinet is still looking for ways to shovel more and more money into it’s Quebec’s failing “champion,” Bombardier. Perhaps a project to buy (and adapt to Canadian standards) a couple of proven UAV designs (one small, and suitable to be mounted on small warships, and one large, suitable for runway based operations) for production in Quebec to meet a wide range of Canadian government (military and civil service) needs, would help both Canada and Bombardier.