Northrop Grumman Unveils the Firebird

Northrop Grumman has lifted the veil on the Firebird, an all-new intelligence-gathering aircraft capable of operating multiple sensors at once in manned or unmanned configurations. Industry partner Scaled Composites designed, built, and tested Firebird, while Northrop supplied the universal payload interface and mission systems. The aircraft flew only 12 months after initial design work began, according to Northrop. Paul Meyer, Northrop’s vice president for Aerospace Systems, said the two companies have delivered “an unprecedented information-gathering capability.” Rick Crooks, Northrop’s Firebird program manager, called the aircraft “an adaptable system that makes it highly affordable because of the number of different missions it can accomplish during a single flight. It’s a real game changer.” Its large internal bay is capable of holding sensors for capturing high-definition video, infrared, and radar images as well as electronic signals. The bay alleviates the need for external pods, which means less drag. Firebird’s common USB-like interface simplifies payload change-out for various missions. Firebird’s demonstration debut is set for US Joint Forces Command’s Empire Challenge exercise that starts May 23. (Northrop release)