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Raytheon Killer Bee UAV  (Source: Popular Mechanics)
Another big contract is on the line for Boeing

Boeing is already locking horns with Northrop Grumman/EADS over the U.S. Air Force decision to choose an Airbus A330-based tanker over a design based on the Boeing 767. It now looks as though Boeing may be in for another fight in a military segment in which it has dominated for some time:  unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for the Navy and Marine Corps.

Popular Mechanics is reporting that Raytheon is stepping into the ring with its Killer Bee. The Killer Bee, thanks to the Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System program, is taking direct aim at Boeing's ScanEagle (and its many variants) which is a military favorite.

Civilian versions of the Killer Bee have been used to track icebergs according to Popular Mechanics. The Killer Bee has a wingspan of ten feet and has a range of over 100 miles. The vehicle can carry a payload of 30 pounds, can reach a maximum altitude of 10,000 feet and travel at 105 knots. Raytheon also brags that its militarized Killer Bee can carry more cargo that Boeing's competing ScanEagle and has provisions for infrared feeds and precision munitions.

Unmanned vehicles are becoming more commonplace in today’s U.S. military. The computerized platforms can perform many of the same tasks performed by manned platforms and have the advantage of keeping human soldiers out of harm’s way.

The Army has already seen its use of UAVs skyrocket over the past year. The vehicles have even taken part in military operations including one well-publicized incident where a Hunter MQ-5B/C "took out" two enemy insurgents in September 2007.

Other unmanned vehicles in the military's fleet include the iRobot SUGV Early with its REDOWL system and the BAE Systems Black Knight Armored Combat Vehicle (ACV). Northrop Grumman also has a $636 million contract to develop its X-47B into an unmanned bomber.





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