Northrop Grumman Bat

Northrop Grumman Bat
KillerBee
Role Reconnaissance UAV
National origin United States
Manufacturer Northrop Grumman (formerly Swift Engineering)
First flight 14 March 2006

The Northrop Grumman Bat (formerly Swift KillerBee) is series of a low flying unmanned air vehicles being developed for the US Air Force, United States Marine Corps, US Navy and the US Department of Homeland Security by Swift Engineering. Designed primarily as an intelligence gathering tool, the KillerBee features 30 lb payload capacity that is unmatched in a 10 ft wing span.

On March 14, 2006 the KillerBee was test flown in Nevada by Swift Engineering for the United States air force, where it was met with approval from the representatives from the US Air Force:

It was amazing how quickly it climbed to altitude. It was very evident this bird could carry a lot more payload. Couple this with its inherent low-observable design, and I think we have a platform that could be used for several Air Force missions.[1]
—Lt. Col. Douglas Larson, chief of the Combat Applications Division at the UAV Battlelab

The partnership between Northrop Grumman and Swift Engineering on the development of the Killer Bee ended in 2007. Swift Engineering has continued development on the KillerBee and its support systems; including launcher, recovery system, and ground control system. As of 2009, Raytheon has acquired rights to market the KillerBee.

Characteristics

  • System is packed into two major assemblies, Trailer & GCS both transportable on MV-22, HUMVEE deployable
  • KB4 UAV’s have exceptional volume and capacity allowing for true COTS payloads and systems
  • Two man operations for all components
  • Advanced automation features makes system easy to use
  • Automatic Recovery into net
  • Catapult launcher functions are controlled and monitored by GCS software
  • Advance GCS software reduces operator workload

The blended wings merge with the fuselage into a single airfoil to reduce aerodynamic drag and improving fuel economy. Made largely of composites, including epoxy/carbon and fiberglass, the airfoil is thick, giving it better structural efficiency and stiffness, saving material and manufacturing cost. It also makes the craft inherently rugged and much less susceptible to damage. With net hooks in the nose and a rear push propeller, the craft lands in a mobile retrieval net.[2]

The current engine under development will have flight time of up to 15 hours with a payload of 30 lb is being carried, and has a top speed of 105 km/h. The KillerBee's unique design gives it a lower visual and radar profile. The aircraft has been developed in numerous variations, with the 6.5 ft version being known as the KB2, and a 10 ft KillerBee KB4 has an increased carrying capacity of 30 lb.

The payload consists of still image and real time video cameras, EO/IR and SAR sensors, laser range finders, laser designators, Infra-Red cameras, communication equipment, chemical and biological detection systems or flare dispensers.

Uses

With the ability to carry numerous different types of payloads for collecting intelligence, including still image and real time video cameras, EO/IR and SAR sensors, laser range finders, laser designators, Infra-Red cameras, communication equipment, chemical and biological detection systems and flare dispensers, the KillerBee is thought to be a versatile platform for the American armed forces.[3] The KB series is also thought to have a future use as a private security measure, and as a means to monitor pipelines, power lines and the like, as well as weather phenomenon.[3]

Specifications (KB4)

General characteristics

  • Crew: None
  • Capacity: 30 lb (14 kg) payload
  • Wingspan: 10 ft 0 in (3.04 m)

Performance

  • Maximum speed: 70 mph (110 km/h)
  • Endurance: 15 hours
  • Service ceiling: 15,000 ft (4,600 m)

References

  1. ^ Air-attack Northrop Demonstrates Capabilities KillerBee UAV retrieved on March 17, 2007
  2. ^ Black, Sara (5/1/2007), "Blended Wing UAV", Composites World, http://www.compositesworld.com/articles/blended-wing-uav.aspx 
  3. ^ a b Air-attack article on the KillerBee retrieved on March 17, 2007

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