Northrop Grumman has acquired a line of small unmanned air systems (UAS) invented by Swift Engineering and formerly known as KillerBee.

The acquisition of the renamed "Bat" UAS family reunites Northrop with Swift's blended-wing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) after a two-year hiatus, and adds a new wrinkle to the competitive dynamics of the bidding process for a major US Navy/US Marine Corps contract.

Northrop and Swift originally teamed four years ago to offer the KillerBee-4 aircraft for the small tactual UAS (STUAS)/Tier II contract. But the team broke apart in December 2006 for undisclosed reasons.

Swift then teamed with Raytheon Missile Systems to offer the KB-4 for the STUAS/Tier II deal, and Northrop agreed to become a subcontractor for the Aurora Flight Sciences GoldenEye 80 ducted-fan UAV.

 Killer Bee

Northrop now owns the rights to the KB-4, but has licensed the aircraft to Raytheon to offer for STUAS/Tier II, a Northrop spokesman says. But the company is not discussing its own plans to participate in that competition.

The USN and USMC has asked industry to submit proposals for the STUAS/Tier II contract award by mid-May, and a contract award is expected later this year.

The solicitation has attracted wide interest. Other candidates include the Boeing/Insitu ScanEagle or Integrator, AAI Aerosonde, Lockheed Martin Sky Spirit, BAE Systems/Advanced Ceramics Research Silver Fox and General Dynamics/Elbit Systems Skylark.

Northrop aims to market its new Bat family at the growing market for real-time intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance by UAVs in the irregular warfare environment, says Corey Moore, Northrop's vice president of advanced concepts - air and land systems.

The Bat program will likely be based at Northrop's UAS center in Rancho Bernardo, California, a spokesman says. The Bat family will join the company's other UAS products, including the X-47 unmanned combat air vehicle, RQ-4 Global Hawk and broad area maritime surveillance (BAMS) system and the MQ-8 Fire Scout helicopter.

Source: Flight International