Raytheon says today it will continue to develop and sell new versions of the Killer Bee blended wing body unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) even after the design has been acquired and renamed by Northrop Grumman.

Raytheon’s plans are also not limited to its ongoing bid to selling the 3.05m (10ft)-wingspan Killer Bee-4 (KB-4) system to the US Navy and Marine Corps for the small takeoff unmanned aircraft system (STUAS)/Tier II contract.

Rather, the company will develop and offer new versions of the KB-4 for UAS requirements both above and below the 3m-sized wingspan for the Tier II-class, says Ryan M. Hartman, Raytheon's director of unmanned systems.

But Hartman was unequivocal speaking to FlightGlobal.com about Raytheon's plans to recoup its two-year investment in the KB-4 technology.

"Killer Bee is where it is today because of Raytheon," says Hartman. Besides the licensing deal with Northrop for the basic KB-4 airframe, Raytheon plans to expand on its accumulated intellectual property in the UAV's airframes and systems.

Northrop’s acquisition of Swift's renamed "Bat" family initially appeared to shake up Raytheon's two-year-old relationship with Killer Bee designer Swift Engineering. However, Northrop subsequently disclosed it had signed a licensing deal with Raytheon to offer the KB-4 for STUAS/Tier II.

However, both Northrop and Raytheon appear to set to develop different versions of the basic Killer Bee airframe, which Northrop says can be scaled up from a nearly 2m-wingspan to a more than 10m-wingspan.

"Our rights [under the Northrop deal] are the ability to have a family of aircraft," says Hartman.

Raytheon's bid for the STUAS/Tier II deal based on the KB-4 is competing against several other proposals, including the Boeing/Insitu ScanEagle, AAI Aerosonde and General Dynamics/Elbit Systems Skylark.

Northrop originally partnered with Swift to offer the Killer Bee for the Tier II contract, but the companies severed ties in December 2006. Northrop then signed on with Aurora Flight Sciences as a subcontractor for the Goldeneye-80. Northrop has confirmed it will not submit a proposal for the STUAS/Tier II based on its newly-acquired Bat UAV family.

Source: FlightGlobal.com