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26 Aug 2016: "Canada Buys Blackjack Unmanned Aircraft System from United States"

The Bread Guy

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From the info-machine, out late yesterday afternoon (also attached if link doesn't work for you) ...
National Defence Puts U.S. Navy Technology to Work Protecting Canada and Its Allies

August 26, 2016 – Gatineau, Que.

The Government is dedicated to building a more agile, better-equipped military, while ensuring the best value for Canadians.

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.

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).

Quotes

    “Buying innovative and proven defence technology directly from our allies is just one of the many ways in which the Government of Canada is able to deliver the right equipment to the Canadian Armed Forces at the best value for Canadians.”
    The Honourable Judy M. Foote
    Minister of Public Services and Procurement

    “The Blackjack aerial surveillance system will provide the Canadian Armed Forces with modern, sophisticated technology that will give commanders the situational awareness they need to conduct missions effectively. We are pleased to work cooperatively with the U.S. government and the U.S. Navy to bring this leading-edge technology to Canada.”
    The Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan
    Minister of National Defence

Quick Facts

    The Canadian Armed Forces requires rapid access to relevant information about the environment in civil or military situations, and only a family of unmanned aircraft vehicles can meet the diverse intelligence demands of a modern battlefield.
    The RQ-21A Blackjack is a runway independent system that can carry multiple payloads, which makes it a flexible, multi-mission platform that could be used on foreign operations, and that could be called upon by the government to support domestic operations such as a G8 Summit or even a natural disaster.
    The system was procured through the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program with the U.S. Government.
 

Attachments

  • Canada Buys Blackjack Unmanned Aircraft System from United States - Canada News Centre.pdf
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Edward Campbell

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Here is a photo of the Blackjack, with a person for size reference:

RQ-21ABLACKJACK3.jpg


Can someone tell me how it might relate to this discussion/question?

 

Kirkhill

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E.R. Campbell said:
Here is a photo of the Blackjack, with a person for size reference:

RQ-21ABLACKJACK3.jpg


Can someone tell me how it might relate to this discussion/question?

ERC:  cf https://army.ca/forums/threads/111619/post-1339743.html#msg1339743
 

dimsum

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From what little I can see, it looks like a similar arrangement to the Scan Eagle (and built by the same company).  So, if SE doesn't work on the MCDVs, I doubt Blackjack will either.

ETA:  From Wiki, it uses the same launch/recovery system. 

Also, interesting that 4 Arty Regiment is now "General Support", not Air Defence.
 

Edward Campbell

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Sorry, all, I was really thinking of this question:

E.R. Campbell said:
Thanks for that, but ... assuming that I'm right and that there is a valid operational requirement for a mixed, balanced fleet that includes several small combatants, say in the 1,500 ton range: is the UAV a suitable replacement for (not adjunct at) the helicopter?

(I know I'm "situating the appreciation," but I was in Ottawa for a long time so I learned that's how policy is made.)

My (current) sense is that there is no political will to expand the financial envelope of the national shipbuilding strategy and it, as funded, cannot provide more than, say, about 10-15 combatant vessels but we, the RCN seems to say, need 20 to 25. If that's the case we need to find money for eight to 12 small combatants and I'm guessing that UAVs are cheaper to install operate and maintain on a small combatant than are helicopters.
 

Bird_Gunner45

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E.R. Campbell said:
Sorry, all, I was really thinking of this question:

My (current) sense is that there is no political will to expand the financial envelope of the national shipbuilding strategy and it, as funded, cannot provide more than, say, about 10-15 combatant vessels but we, the RCN seems to say, need 20 to 25. If that's the case we need to find money for eight to 12 small combatants and I'm guessing that UAVs are cheaper to install operate and maintain on a small combatant than are helicopters.

Mr. Campbell,

As mentioned, the black jack is a larger version of the Scan Eagle (and was formerly known as the integrator). It utilizes a larger pneumatic launcher (the Mk IV vs the Scan Eagle Mk III) and a larger Sky Hook recovery system (due to the larger size and greater impact of the system). The launcher and skyhook would be too large for a MCDV, and there was discussion as to whether a halifax class frigate would fit both, though someone in the navy could speak to that element.

Great system though- it takes the advantages of the Scan Eagle (Runway independent, light, cheap to use) and upgrades the sensor packages which were always the Scan Eagle's greatest limitation (The EO and IR/FLIR were never the equivalent of higher level UAS from the TUAV-HALE/MALE).
 

PuckChaser

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Is this a replacement for the SPERWER that we were using in Afg?
 

Bird_Gunner45

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PuckChaser said:
Is this a replacement for the SPERWER that we were using in Afg?

No, this is the replacement for the Scan Eagle SUAS and will be employed with the 4th Arty Regiment, GS.
 

dimsum

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PuckChaser said:
Is this a replacement for the SPERWER that we were using in Afg?

Technically, the replacement for Sperwer was the Heron, which we stopped leasing in 2011. 
 

Kirkhill

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Bird_Gunner45 said:
Mr. Campbell,

As mentioned, the black jack is a larger version of the Scan Eagle (and was formerly known as the integrator). It utilizes a larger pneumatic launcher (the Mk IV vs the Scan Eagle Mk III) and a larger Sky Hook recovery system (due to the larger size and greater impact of the system). The launcher and skyhook would be too large for a MCDV, and there was discussion as to whether a halifax class frigate would fit both, though someone in the navy could speak to that element.

Great system though- it takes the advantages of the Scan Eagle (Runway independent, light, cheap to use) and upgrades the sensor packages which were always the Scan Eagle's greatest limitation (The EO and IR/FLIR were never the equivalent of higher level UAS from the TUAV-HALE/MALE).

Is it that the MCDV is too small or that the layout is not compatible with gear mounted on wheels?

Suppose the launcher and the recovery mast were "permanently" mounted to the vessel  - the launcher up in the bows or above the wheelhouse and the recovery mast on the starboard wing by the existing crane?

As in this case.

7-scaneagle.jpg


kingston_1a.jpg


 

dimsum

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Chris Pook said:
Is it that the MCDV is too small or that the layout is not compatible with gear mounted on wheels?

Suppose the launcher and the recovery mast were "permanently" mounted to the vessel  - the launcher up in the bows or above the wheelhouse and the recovery mast on the starboard wing by the existing crane?

As in this case.

7-scaneagle.jpg


kingston_1a.jpg

I haven't seen the new launcher, but mounting something forward of the bridge would cause problems with the armament (fields of fire, etc.)  I think the issue would be trying to mount both on the sweepdeck - if it's larger, it may just not fit. 
 

George Wallace

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Dimsum said:
I haven't seen the new launcher, but mounting something forward of the bridge would cause problems with the armament (fields of fire, etc.)  I think the issue would be trying to mount both on the sweepdeck - if it's larger, it may just not fit.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OhWgvlCcgo
 

Old Sweat

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Excuse my ignorance, but my wife and I visited HMCS Goose Bay a few weeks back when she was on a port visit to Johnstown just east of Prescott, ON. Anything is possible, but I can't see the launcher being mounted forward because it would restrict whatever weapon replaces the boffin. Similarly, I am not sure there is the space to mount a launcher aft. What also bothers me is providing storage and maintenance space with easy access to a launch and/or recovery area.

My apologies to all, but that was my impression and during the tour I did consider fitting a UAV system.
 

Bird_Gunner45

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Chris Pook said:
Is it that the MCDV is too small or that the layout is not compatible with gear mounted on wheels?

Suppose the launcher and the recovery mast were "permanently" mounted to the vessel  - the launcher up in the bows or above the wheelhouse and the recovery mast on the starboard wing by the existing crane?

As in this case.

7-scaneagle.jpg


kingston_1a.jpg

The only spot where the Scan Eagle/Black Jack could be launched and recovered would be the aft deck. The problem with a MCDV (and any navy pers please feel free to correct me... I sailed on a MCDV many many years ago as an AB) is that the ship deck has little space for the new launcher and skyhook and nowhere to store them in rougher seas. The Halifax class have hangers where the equipment can be stored when not in use- so when they launch the skyhook is safely stowed in the hanger and vice versa.

The UAS can recover and launch as long as it is done into the wind. The GCS and software will auto correct the course for recovery based on many hits/second on the GPS (one on the skyhook, one on the UAS) to ensure that speed and direction are such that it hits the rope with a wing at a low enough speed to recover. The ship just needs to be sailing into the wind or within the safe landing parameters of the UAS (which I believe was around 20km/hr cross winds with a Scan Eagle... stand to be corrected on that since I deployed with the Scan Eagle 6 years ago and haven't touched it since). 

So, if there was proper storage for the Skyhook, Mk IV launcher, the UAS crates, etc than it could fly from a MCDV. However, the limitation is that you would be unable to move the launcher or skyhook, limiting recover/launch of the UAS and making the chance of collision more significant.
 

Oldgateboatdriver

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I believe Messrs Pook and Campbell are suggesting that, for the next generation of coastal defence vessels, this should be a consideration.

While not in the plans now (at least none of the plans that are public or even widely known within the navy), it remains that the MCDV's are at their mid-life at about 20 years of age. so in about five to ten years, the matter of  their replacement will come up.

At that point, in view of their actual use as opposed to the originally contemplated one, I suspect that we would be looking at slightly larger vessels (probably in the 1200 to 1500 tons range) with greater speed (likely in the 20 to 25 knots) similarly armed. Basically, a small OPV.

It is easy to conceptualize such a ship having some form of small landing pad/small hangar combination at the stern. It is also easy to conceptualize such hangar to be too small for a helicopter, but big enough to have a small "rail" crossing system so a UAV launcher of sort can be cross-decked to the middle of the landing pad and turned into any direction to catapult. such permanent system would not need "wheels" as it would be mounted on the track. Similarly, the deployable recovery mast could then be mounted permanently on the side of the hangar for hydraulic deployment and retraction as need be. In such a system, most of the electronics and controls for  the UAV would be located in the ops room or the bridge, as the case may be.

That is easily feasible for a UAV such as the Blackjack, and for surveillance of Canadian waters or constabulary duties, would be a great force enhancer for the vessel.

In fact, even though they are doing this with a "small helicopter" type UAV, the French Navy is doing exactly that on their FNS ADROIT OPV.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_Yy0aaXoE4

BTW: The person "flying" the UAV is equivalent to one of our PO1. Would we be so daring in Canada, or insist on a LT from the Air Force to "fly" the thing?
 

Bird_Gunner45

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Oldgateboatdriver said:
I believe Messrs Pook and Campbell are suggesting that, for the next generation of coastal defence vessels, this should be a consideration.

While not in the plans now (at least none of the plans that are public or even widely known within the navy), it remains that the MCDV's are at their mid-life at about 20 years of age. so in about five to ten years, the matter of  their replacement will come up.

At that point, in view of their actual use as opposed to the originally contemplated one, I suspect that we would be looking at slightly larger vessels (probably in the 1200 to 1500 tons range) with greater speed (likely in the 20 to 25 knots) similarly armed. Basically, a small OPV.

It is easy to conceptualize such a ship having some form of small landing pad/small hangar combination at the stern. It is also easy to conceptualize such hangar to be too small for a helicopter, but big enough to have a small "rail" crossing system so a UAV launcher of sort can be cross-decked to the middle of the landing pad and turned into any direction to catapult. such permanent system would not need "wheels" as it would be mounted on the track. Similarly, the deployable recovery mast could then be mounted permanently on the side of the hangar for hydraulic deployment and retraction as need be. In such a system, most of the electronics and controls for  the UAV would be located in the ops room or the bridge, as the case may be.

That is easily feasible for a UAV such as the Blackjack, and for surveillance of Canadian waters or constabulary duties, would be a great force enhancer for the vessel.

In fact, even though they are doing this with a "small helicopter" type UAV, the French Navy is doing exactly that on their FNS ADROIT OPV.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_Yy0aaXoE4

BTW: The person "flying" the UAV is equivalent to one of our PO1. Would we be so daring in Canada, or insist on a LT from the Air Force to "fly" the thing?

Black Jacks, like Scan Eagle's will be flown by Gnr-MBdr (AB-MS) with a Sgt acting as the detachment commander/mission commander. So, there is no requirement for an officer to fly and the Troop Commander generally acts in a planning/advisement role to the ship's Captain (in the naval sense).

I do agree that the next generation of MCDV would be beneficial to have the capability of having UAS flown from them and there are a host of UAS that could be utilized (that aren't necessarily the Black Jack). However, the MCDV isn't really a feasible platform as the launcher and skyhook are too large for it's deck and there's no storage for the equipment. In Afghanistan we had a large platform to site the launcher and recovery system, far larger than a MCDV deck.



Naval Black Jacks will always be limited in the number of AV's that can be launched at any time. In Afghanistan we were able to have 3 x Scan Eagle fly as we had 4 x GCS (3 x GCS for the AV, 1 x GCS for the launch and recovery). On a ship you'll be limited to 1 which could be a limitation, but is definately better than nothing.

 

Journeyman

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Oldgateboatdriver said:
.....it remains that the MCDV's are at their mid-life at about 20 years of age. so in about five to ten years, the matter of  their replacement will come up.
We will establish a program office, likely near the still-running Sea King and FWSAR replacement offices.  Once they design a cool logo, they'll set to the important work -- how can this benefit Davie Shipyard and Bombardier.....

        :pop:      /cynic
 

Kirkhill

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Just one comment more.

About Army types looking at stowing stuff in ships. 

Sailors seem to manage to figure out how to pack an incredible amount of gear into a tight space.  For starters they look up and check for bulkheads and deckheads to which things can be attached.  And they are more inclined to stow gear when not in use.  Another common characteristic I have seen is padeyes welded to the deckheads so that gear can be moved by an overhead route.  Just saying - sailors seem to be more aware of the full 3D space and how it might be exploited.

That was brought home to me by buddies in the fishing industry.  Our installation manuals with instructions for mounting machines on shore plants were blissfully ignored - especially when it came to working clearances.

Sidebar:  Working with centrifuges - the manual says that the centrifuges are supposed to be laser leveled.  I have since come to doubt the necessity of such an instruction having seen them operate in Sea State 5 and greater and in flat calms while the ship was trimmed down by the head and heeling to starboard.

The UAV capability should definitely be part of the future MCDV/OPV design.

:cheers:




 
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