AUVSI: Northrop lifts veil on Bat UAV strategy, settles dispute over Raytheon KillerBee

Washington DC
Source:
This story is sourced from Flight Daily News
Subscribe today »

The Bat family of UAVs that Northrop Grumman acquired four months ago from race car-maker Swift Engineering will be offered for widely ranging applications, the company says.

The family of UAVs shaped with a blended-wing body design can be scaled from a 5ft- to a 33ft-diameter wingspan, with the latter weighing a maximum 2,300lb, says Tom Twomey, a Northrop business development director.

In a press conference Wednesday, Twomey showed four different concepts for a 10ft-diameter version - a Comm Bat to relay radio messages; a weaponized version called Fire Bat; a Ghost Bat for signals intelligence and a Sea Bat to support marine operations such as amphibious landings.

This baseline Bat UAV should offer a 56lb maximum payload within a 164lb gross weight, and is recovered using a net. The net recovery method can support Bat designs with up to 15ft-diameter, but larger versions would require landing by wheels and landing gear, Twomey says. Some of the larger designs up to 33ft also may require a turbine engine for propulsion, he adds.

One mission area that Northrop is investigating for the Bat system is to be air-launched by manned aircraft, such as the Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules, says Mark Gamache, Northrop's director of advanced programs and technology. Swift's engineers have also analyzed how to air-launch the Bat from a Lockheed P-3C Orion.

The 33ft-scale Bat could form a "pretty cheap entry" for the US Air Force's MQ-X contract, Twomey says. The USAF is likely to ask for a larger aircraft to fill the requirement, but a scaled-up Bat is "not out of the question," he adds.

Separately, Northrop confirms that it has settled a previous dispute with Raytheon over the Bat acquisition. When Northrop acquired the design rights for Bat, it also licensed Raytheon to offer a 10ft-wingspan version called the KillerBee-4 for the small tactical UAS/Tier 2 contract.

In June, Raytheon executives said they interpreted the licensing agreement to allow them to "mature" the KB-4 by scaling the wingspan up or down as they wished.

Northrop now says that the companies have agreed that the KB-4 wingspan can vary in size from 9ft to 14ft, which includes an outboard wing extension.