Air-Launched Weapons

Northrop Grumman readies Hatchet for all-up testing

17 October 2018

Scale models of the Northrop Grumman-developed launchers for Hatchet. Above left: the 500 lb-class rotary weapon dispenser (54 munitions). Above right: the 125 lb-class rail weapon dispenser (12 munitions). Source: R J Hughes

Northrop Grumman is set to conduct the first live end-to-end test of an all-up Hatchet miniature precision strike munition by the end of this year.

Developed with internal research and development (IRAD) funding, Hatchet was originally unveiled in April 2012 as a low-cost gravity-dropped weapon concept to equip unmanned aircraft systems (UASs).

The Hatchet development programme has now picked up pace. The weapon system has since evolved in design and concept of operations, and is now optimised as a precision-guided low-collateral-damage glide munition, designed to be launched from all airborne platform types - fixed wing, rotary wing, and UAS - in a close air support role (CAS) against soft-skinned targets, light structures, and personnel.

A series of tests in the past 24 months - including flight trials and arena/height of burst testing - culminated in full guide-to-hit trials in early October. "These were company-funded guide-to-hit trials using two inert rounds against threat representative targets, both of [which] were successful," a company spokesperson told Jane's . "The trial also successfully demonstrated the release sequence, including deployment of wings and control surfaces, flight stability, and GPS guidance." The height of release and range to target data for both munitions in the guide-to-hit trials were not disclosed

The spokesperson said that for the live test at the end of the year - which is also company-funded - a semi-active laser (SAL) seeker will be incorporated into Hatchet to demonstrate the munition's capability against a moving target. The live test milestone will mature Hatchet to Technical Readiness Level 7, the spokesperson added.

Hatchet is a guided glide munition featuring a tri-form fold-around mid-body wing and deployable aft control surface arrangement. The munition weighs approximately 2.72 kg (6 lbs), is 60 mm (2.4 inches) in diameter, and approximately 30.1 cm (11.9 inches) in length.

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