Northrop Grumman’s Jackal concept munition satisfies a need for speed, and more.
Two loitering munitions sat side by side this May at the recent Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) in Tampa, Florida. AeroVironment’s Switchblade 600L represented the system that’s gained a high profile per being dispatched to Ukraine. Making its debut, Northrop Grumman’s half-scale, torpedo-shaped Jackal represented both a corporate partnership and interest from several branches of the U.S. military based on its combination of avionics, speed, modularity and multiplatform capability.
“We’re very early on,” Northrop Grumman business development manager Stacy Schwanke explained about the Jackal. “We’re just starting the design phase.” But she and communications manager Jarrod Krull outlined the potential for this tube-launched turbojet to fill a gap between propeller-driven loitering munitions and the need for more range and speed.
Jackal is being matured in AeroVironment’s Switchblade 600 for immediate development purposes. It’s projected to sprint at up to 400 kilometers per hour to either identify or directly engage a target. “Jackal can be fitted with a warhead that is specifically designed to defeat different target sets,” Krull explained. The system will carry a 10-pound payload, whether ISR, EW or weaponry, and will have day-night and harsh-weather capability. Range is put at 100 kilometers, with plans to extend to 185 kilometers when scaled to carry more fuel. Jackal will be able to leverage low-level flight parameters with the ability to fly waypoints, and will be networkable for collaborative engagements.
Jackal Avionics and Mission Command draws on Northrop Grumman’s experience with precision guidance munitions and warhead development. “They have an expertise in how we make very capable warheads to fit certain applications,” Schwanke said about the company’s Armament Systems division out of Plymouth, Minnesota. Krull agreed: “When these programs come about, it speeds up development and getting a final product to the warfighter.”
Since 2017, Northrop Grumman and AeroVironment have worked together in several areas, including TAGM (Tactical Aviation and Ground Munitions). The TAGM Project Office, Krull explained, “has a mission to develop, field and sustain versatile air and ground-launched weapon systems for the U.S. Army, joint and coalition warfighters that provide a decisive advantage in Joint All-Domain Operations (JADO).”
That said, Northrop Grumman anticipates having the final Jackal airframe be “our own product, based on our design,” Krull said.
WIELDING THE HATCHET
At SOFIC, Northrop Grumman also promoted its Hatchet product. Hatchet is a foot-long, 6 pound air-delivered precision strike munition designed to take out light armor and unprotected sites. Multiple guidance technologies and a Lethality Enhanced Ordinance warhead limits collateral damage while delivering capability in the several-hundred-pound class. As with the Jackal, a variety of warheads can be mounted. May also was a milestone month for the Hatchet, as it completed a series of end-to-end tests that included more than a dozen drops with a Class 3 UAS. Large containers served as targets so fragmentation could be evaluated.
“The multiple drops proved our Hatchet’s readiness for qualification testing for fielding on any airborne system, manned and unmanned,” Krull said.