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Catapult-launched, tactical bat drone wages electronic war
22 NOVEMBER 13 by ALLEN MCDUFFEE
Small, tactical drones may have a new role in military strikes after Northrop Grumman's catapult-launched Bat demonstrated an electronic attack capability for the first time in new tests.
With its 12-foot wingspan, the low-flying Bat, which maxes out at 70 miles per hour, was able to jam radar during tests. That means the Pentagon will soon have the option of deploying a flexible, largely undetectable drone with radar-jamming capability to protect manned aircraft against radar and surface-to-air missile guidance systems.
Bat continues to demonstrate capabilities that can normally only be achieved by larger, more expensive unmanned aircraft," said George Vardoulakis, Northrop Grumman's vice president of Medium Range Tactical Systems, in a statement. "Our customers now have a more mobile and affordable option for electronic warfare missions."
The tests, involving other unmanned and fixed-wing aircraft, took place last month at the Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One Weapons and Tactics Instructor event at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California, according to Northrop Grumman.
While the Bat has been in operation for some time, it has remained a surveillance vehicle until now. Northrop integrated its Pandora electronic attack payload -- a lightweight, low-cost derivative of the company's family of APR-39 systems -- on the Bat in less than two months.
According to Northrop, the Bat was a good candidate because of its price point, larger payload volume given its size and its ability to accept different-size fuel tanks and sensor payloads.
Bat is a runway-independent and fully autonomous vehicle that launches from a hydraulic rail launcher at sea or land and recovers into a portable net system, as seen in this video of earlier tests:
Bat Unmanned Aircraft System (BAT UAS) 12 First FlightNorthrop Grumman
This story first appeared on Wired.com.