19 May 2024

The U.S. Navy handed over an unmanned aircraft system, known as RQ-21A Blackjack, to the Royal Thai Navy on Tuesday, as a part of a program funded by Indo-Pacific Maritime Security Initiative (MSI).

The system includes five aircraft, two ground control stations, launch and recovery equipment and residential training in the United States.

According to a statement from the U.S. embassy in Thailand, the RQ-21A Blackjack is an unmanned and unarmed aircraft system designed for maritime intelligence gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance. The system has a range of 50 nautical miles and can fly at a speed of 60 nautical miles per hour and can stay airborne for 16 hours.

The statement said the system will help enhance Thailand’s maritime security capabilities for search and rescue operations and in drug and human trafficking interdiction.

The Southeast Asia Maritime Security Initiative (MSI) was initiated in 2016, with the aim of improving the abilities of member states to address a range of maritime challenges, including China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea. The U.S. initiative involves five main ASEAN member states, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, along with Singapore, Brunei and Taiwan.