Northrop Grumman Enters the Sand Dragon with a Bat
On August 12, 2011 Northrop Grumman was awarded $26,178,369 on a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification basis for Sand Dragon B Tier II UAVs. The goal is to develop and deploy a counter-IED unmanned aerial system. Northrop Grumman told DID that the product in question is the Bat-12 model within the company’s Bat family of medium altitude UAS’s.
12 stands for the vehicle’s wingspan in feet. The system’s brochure [PDF] mentions up to 14 hours of endurance and 970 nm / 1,800 km in range with a typical 50 lb payload (max payload+comms is 75 lb / 34 kg).
Northrop Grumman acquired Bat from Swift Engineering in April 2009 and flew its maiden flight with the new series in January 2010. That first flight involved launches from the hydraulic rail launcher used for RQ-7 Shadows followed by recovery in a net.
Bat-12 looks relatively similar to the UAV that won the first Sand Dragon contract, awarded in early 2010 for $13,099,472 to ChandlerMay subsidiary AeroMech Engineering (FA865010C7036). The core requirements were: runway independence, long endurance beyond 24 hours, the use of a heavy fuel engine, beyond line-of-sight data relay. Fury Bs use a rail catapult to take off without a runway. See also Military & Aerospace Electronics (their numbers and publication date look to be based off the presolicitation rather than the award).
This earlier contract was not competed. The (redacted) justification for directly selecting Aero Mech’s Fury B platform was that candidates had already been evaluated with previous contract FA8650-07D-1226-0002 on the Gotcha Radar Exploitation Project (GREP). A tight schedule and requests from troops in Afghanistan were also part of the rationale behind the sole source J&A.