Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Enemies Beware: Northrop's Tiny Drone Could Zap You!

By Rich Smith - Nov 16, 2013 at 9:00AM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

Northrop Grumman packs its tiny Bat UAV with e-warfare electronics. Will the Pentagon buy it?

Defense contractor Northrop Grumman (NOC -0.74%) is taking the drone world by storm.

A few years back, Adm. Mike Mullen, then-chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, declared that in his opinion, at least, Lockheed Martin's (LMT 1.07%) F-35 fighter jet would be "the last manned fighter" the U.S. ever builds. Northrop quickly took the message to heart.

Ever since then, the company that gave us high-tech piloted combat aircraft such as the B-2 bomber, E-2 Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft, and A-6 Intruder has focused its efforts on developing a fleet of pilotless drones to serve the U.S. military, including:

  • The most capable robotic flying helicopter in the world -- the MQ-8 Fire Scout.
  • An unmanned aerial vehicle that soars higher, flies faster, and stays aloft longer than the famous General Atomics Predator drone -- the RQ-4 Global Hawk.
  • The world's smallest electronic warfare aircraft -- the Bat.


This Bat can see in the daylight, too. Source: Northrop Grumman.

Invented some years ago, Northrop's Bat UAV hasn't seen much use by the military before now. The Bat, 6 feet long with a 12-foot wingspan, can achieve speeds of just over 100 mph, fly at altitudes of up to 15,000 feet, and carry a payload weighing as much as 100 pounds.

For bombs, that's not a whole lot of weight to be toting around, granted. But thanks to the magic of miniaturization, you can pack a whole lot of electronics into 100 pounds. And so Northrop thought to itself, "What if we packed an electronic warfare package aboard the Bat?"

Well, what if you did?
And now, they've done that. On Thursday, Northrop confirmed that for the first time in history, it sent an electronic warfare-equipped small tactical UAV to participate in the U.S. Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics exercise, which took place at China Lake, Calif., last month. Equipped with a Pandora "electronic attack payload" designed to jam enemy radars, the Bat demonstrated its capabilities in exercises alongside both other UAVs and manned aircraft.

Did the Bat perform well enough to finally interest the military in buying a few of the birds? This, we don't yet know. Other companies are experimenting in this space as well, after all -- notably Raytheon (RTN), with its missile-based MALD-J e-warfare drone. But crucially, Northrop notes that in a constrained defense spending environment, its new electronic warfare-equipped Bat boasts "capabilities that can normally only be achieved by larger, more expensive unmanned aircraft." So by continuing to innovate, Northrop has potentially put a new tool in the toolkits of our nation's warfighters.

Whether they choose to use it is up to them.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Stocks Mentioned

Northrop Grumman Corporation Stock Quote
Northrop Grumman Corporation
NOC
$467.62 (-0.74%) $-3.48
Raytheon Company Stock Quote
Raytheon Company
RTN
Lockheed Martin Corporation Stock Quote
Lockheed Martin Corporation
LMT
$447.54 (1.07%) $4.76

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning service.

Stock Advisor Returns
322%
 
S&P 500 Returns
116%

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 05/25/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.