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The Northrop Grumman Brilliant Anti-Tank (BAT) is a United States submunition round dispensed from a missile. It is capable of independently identifying and attacking armored vehicles. The BAT uses acoustic sensors to identify its intended targets, and an infrared homing (IR) terminal seeker to image and aim at the attack target.
It was intended to carry 13 BATs on the MGM-164 ATACMS Block II missile fired from the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System and related systems. Block I ATACMS missiles have a range of 128 km or more, but Block II was cancelled in 2003.
The BAT submunition was an outgrowth of the Assault Breaker Project. This broad ranging Cold War project’s objective was to develop advanced weapon systems to destroy a Soviet armored assault across the inter-German border (between West German and East German). An early successful weapon system was the Hellfire Missile. The Hellfire was classified as a smart weapon because of the intelligence in the guidance system.
An obvious shortcoming of the Hellfire is that the launch platform must acquire the target and in so doing expose itself. The concept of the BAT was to be able to project the submunitions deep behind enemy lines and autonomously attack high-value armored formations before they could engage NATO forces. As originally envisioned, there would have been multiple platforms able to dispense the BAT. These include aircraft dispensers, artillery dispensers and missile dispensers. The intelligence required of the BAT was much greater than the Hellfire and other weapon systems classified as smart, and the term "Brilliant" was applied.
Northrop was the prime contractor for the BAT. Much of the "brilliance" has to do with the submunitions' ability to distinguish high-value targets from low-value targets and strike them in known weak points.
The Assault Breaker Project included systems to detect Soviet armor formations deep behind the front lines. This included the Grumman E-8 Joint STARS (JSTARS).
Designed to break up large mechanized formations, the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) fires missiles carrying BAT submunitions to the targeted formation. The BAT submunitions are dispensed over the target area. The “wings”, tail fins and retarders (parachutes) are deployed on each BAT. The four “wings” have directional microphones on each tip.
The BAT identifies high-value targets acoustically, using programs evolved from submarine warfare systems. The highest-value targets are selected and the Raytheon Optical system in the nose images the designated target. Each target's weakest point is selected. The retarder is dropped, the rocket motor fires, and is optically guided. A tandem-charge warhead is used to defeat any reactive armour present. In addition, thrust from the rocket motor provides kinetic energy to help destroy the target.
With the Cold War over, the threat that instigated the Assault Breaker Project disappeared. Many of the weapon systems in development were abandoned as funds dried up. The only dispenser for the BAT is a missile launched from the MLRS, the Air Force dropped plans for aircraft dispensers. Northrop was fond of the idea of using the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber to drop BATs anywhere in the world, but the unmodified BAT has become a system that doesn't address a current threat. The current stockpiles are zero-funded, with neither further acquisition funds nor maintenance funds for existing stocks.
- Tomes, Robert R. (22 November 2012). "An historical review of US defense strategy from Vietnam to operation Iraqi freedom". Defense & Security Analysis. 28 (4): 303–315. doi:10.1080/14751798.2012.730722.