The United States government is transferring Boeing Insitu RQ-21A Blackjack UAS to the Bangladesh Army in 2024 as part of a greater military scheme to deepen ties with Bangladesh’s defence establishment.
The matter was confirmed by the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Regional Security in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs Mira Resnick as well as Peter Haas, the US Ambassador to Bangladesh on several occasions since August 2023.
It has a wingspan of 4.9 m and Insitu says it has a ceiling greater than 20,000 feet and an endurance greater than 16 hours at a cruise speed of 60 knots. It can carry a payload of up to 17.7 kg.
A single RQ-21A unmanned aircraft system includes five air vehicles with multi-mission payloads, two ground control stations and other equipment.
The standard payload configuration includes an electro-optic imager, a mid-wave infrared imager, a laser rangefinder and infra-red marker, but the system’s modular design enables rapid customisation with imagers, communication systems, electronic warfare systems and signals intelligence capabilities.
The Blackjack system uses a trailer to pneumatically launch the drone, and both are recovered using Insitu’s SkyHook system.
The Bangladesh Army will receive one system consisting of five air vehicles during the initial tranche. These equipment will be deployed in operational areas across Bangladesh and beyond to safeguard Bangladesh’s interests as well as enforce peace around the world under the auspices of the United Nations.
Bangladesh Army is receiving the Blackjack drones through the US Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program. In recent years the US has transferred 90 M1224 MaxxPro MRAPs in three variants, and 11 mine rollers to the Bangladesh Army.
The US has offered more sophisticated defence equipment to the Bangladesh armed forces provided the country signs two foundational defence agreements including General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) and Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA).
Bangladesh is cautiously balancing its strategic relations with China, US and other nations. It is unlikely to procure major defence hardware from the US if it has equivalent alternatives from other countries, which offer the sale and use of the equipment unconditionally.