Northrop Grumman [NOC] plans to offer its BAT tactical unmanned aircraft system (UAS) for upcoming Navy and U.S. Special Operations Command competitions, a company official said.
“We’re working on a version called SeaBAT,” Mark Gamache, director, Advanced Concepts, Northrop Grumman, said during a recent webcast briefing at an AUVSI conference in Denver.
“Up to now everything we’ve done has been land-based launch and recovery. We’re definitely going to be competing for the NAVAIR ISR Services Contract that’s coming up.”
The company has participated in industry days and one-on-one meetings, and is preparing the BAT for the Navy competition as well as the SOCOM Expeditionary UAS Maritime competition that is coming up, Gamache said.
This effort is aimed at launching from destroyers, and littoral combat-type ships, he said.
The company is developing a family of multi-mission persistent and affordable tactical UAS. It can change payloads to conduct missions such as intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, targeting, counter-IED and communications relay.
“BAT is our latest and smallest member of our family of unmanned aerial systems,” Gamache said.
The BAT family, unveiled by Northrop Grumman in 2009, is an evolution of a teaming effort begun in March 2004 with Swift Engineering, Gamache said. The product line includes the 12-foot BAT, a concept for a 20-foot BAT and will evolve to a BAT of some 33 feet. The currently flying and land based 12-foot BAT launches from the fielded Shadow UAS launcher, developed by AAI Corp. [TXT] that is in service with the Army and Marines. It recovers into a net.
The blended wing design allows a large payload volume. Typically, a 12-foot BAT will have a payload somewhere between 25 pounds and 75 pounds, with endurance in the six- to 19- hour range. It has 750 watts of payload power.
Right now, BAT 12 is flying with a gasoline engine. A heavy fuel engine is in testing now and expected to be flying on the UAS by the end of September.
A key feature of BAT is its modularity. “Everything is designed for plug and play,” Gamache said. Just a few bolts allow removal of the propulsion unit, or the “brains” of the BAT. The winglets are larger than needed, so antennas can be embedded for signals intelligence, for example. Fuel tanks, too, are modular, so they can be configured around the payload, on the sides or along the center line.
The BAT ground control station runs the gamut from a rugged laptop to a Humvee-mounted trailer. “You actually only need a keyboard and a screen to fly the airplane,” Gamache said. “You typically have two [monitors/keyboards] to separate the payload monitoring from the aircraft monitoring.”
Northrop Grumman is integrating the One System Ground Control System, developed by AAI, into BAT.
“We’ve got everything we need now for integration into theater and the integration of manned aircraft as far as transponders, position lights,” he said. BAT has the precision, too, key for land and sea recovery, even ship-to-ship recovery.