Northrop Grumman has revealed it has responded with its optionally-manned Firebird system to a request for information from Australia’s Department of Home Affairs for a new maritime surveillance capability.
The Firebird was developed by Northrop Grumman’s Scaled Composites division, and is reported to have seen limited operational use with a US Government ‘three letter’ agency. In unmanned form, it is a medium altitude long endurance (MALE) system with about 30 hours endurance and the ability to employ numerous different sensor payloads.
The aircraft features a centre fuselage section and twin booms which house the landing gear, sensors, and a twin tail. The fuselage has a large payload bay and a single engine with a pusher propeller, and can carry a SATCOM antenna when used in unmanned mode, or a modular cockpit for manned flight in controlled airspace.
The company last year revealed an upgraded Firebird which is larger and more mature and features a larger payload than the original developmental aircraft. Two prototypes are currently flying at Scaled Composites’ Mojave Airport facility in California.