Northrop Grumman wrapped up live testing of an air-launched munition, moving closer to deployment.

The Hatchet miniature precision strike weapon was put through a series of tests over the last six months, the most recent at Project Convergence 2022 from September 19 to October 18.

The demonstrations saw the glide weapon being drop tested from an AeroVironment Jump 20 unmanned system.

“Over the last six months, Hatchet underwent multiple Department of Defense live fire exercises, showcasing its operational capability and integration maturation,” Northrop’s Joe Esler said.

“These demonstrations move Hatchet one step closer to field deployment and operational readiness.”

Gray Eagle Could Carry A Dozen

The munition first captured the US Army’s imagination in 2018 when the service considered deploying it on the MQ-1C Gray Eagle drone as a “possible future armament option.”

Northrop began developing a 125-pound (57 kilograms) dispenser which could enable the drone to carry a dozen Hatchets, enhancing the platform’s capacity to engage multiple targets per sortie.

The drone currently carries four Hellfire missiles or eight Stingers.

Northrop also proposed larger systems for the MQ-9 Reaper, enabling it to carry the munition in the hundreds, The War Zone wrote.

Hatchet precision strike weapon. Image: Northrop Grumman

Punches Above its Weight

Hatchet’s lethality-enhanced ordnance (LEO) warhead allows the six-pound (2.72 kilograms) munition to deliver the punch of a several-hundred-pound weapon, Northrop claims

Moreover, “the LEO warhead limits collateral damage while providing precision to one meter (3.28 feet) through multiple guidance technologies to include GPS/INS/EO/IR seekers.”

The lightweight munition’s compressed carriage design allows it to be deployed in greater numbers on various manned and unmanned platforms.

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“By arming the smaller, organic unmanned systems, the soldiers on the ground become less reliant on the larger, low density, high demand aircraft assets to accomplish their mission,” Esler stated. 

“As we have seen in Ukraine, these smaller, weaponized UAS systems have been proven very effective on the battlefield.”