Warplanes: The Constant Contender


December 7, 2013: American military aircraft companies often come up with unusual concepts, get them working in prototype form, and try, often successfully, to get interest and orders for the new idea. Such was the case with Northrup Grumman when it announced it had rigged its Bat UAV with a miniaturized APR-39 radar detector and jammer. Older, and heavier, versions of APR-39 have been around since the 1990s and equip many military aircraft. In a UAV the APR-39 could be used to clear the way for manned aircraft (especially helicopters) by detecting enemy air defense radars and jamming (or at least distracting) them. As clever as the concept is, it may not help sell the BAT because this is not the first time Bat has been fitted with special equipment to make it more attractive to buyers.

Back in 2009 a Bat UAV was fitted with communications relay equipment so that ground units (especially those operating in mountainous terrain) could get much more range out of their radios (whose signals are often blocked by mountains). These tests with the communications relay gear were a success and were performed for an "unnamed government customer" (most likely SOCOM or CIA, although the army and marines are also potential users). All sorts of aircraft and even balloons have been fitted with relay gear, but there were apparently no sales for BAT doing this.

Earlier in 2009, Northrup Grumman bought the Bat UAV design from Raytheon (which continued to develop UAVs with the unique Bat design). Earlier Bat had been known as Killerbee but Raytheon renamed it as Bat and began scaling up the original 19.5 kg (43 pound), two meter (6.5 feet) wingspan model to others with wingspans up to 10 meters (33 feet).

The Bat is a unique design, using a blended wing (like the B-2 bomber). The Bat family of UAVs is competing to snag the contract to be one of the few standard Department of Defense UAV models. Raytheon had bought the Bat line from the original developer, Swift Engineering, in the belief that Bat could be a contender. Raytheon still believes that the Bat design has a shot at being a major player in the military UAV market, but its unique design has yet to demonstrate a decisive superiority over more conventional shapes (like the Predator, Raven, and so on).


Article Archive

Warplanes: Current 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 



Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close