Northrop Unveils Latest Spy PlanePosted: May 15, 2011
Only last week the rumour mill was rife with talk of a new class of UAV flying over Beale Air Force base, California. If you have the time to trawl through the speculation, it was soon clear this wasn’t simply a modified MC-12 Liberty as used for surveillance and reconnaissance in Iraq. Sure enough, Northrop Grumman have unveiled their new spy plane, the Firebird. The UAV is filled with high definition cameras, electronic eavesdropping gear and is developed from scaled composites.
The Announcement states:
“Firebird’s universal interface is similar to plugging a memory stick into a personal computer that is automatically recognized without needing to load additional software.
“Not only have we increased the number of ISR sensors working simultaneously in an aircraft of this size, but we can also incorporate various sensors that complement each other – greatly enhancing Firebird’s information-gathering value for warfighters,” said Rick Crooks, Northrop Grumman’s Firebird program manager. “Firebird is 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.”
The biggest development is that the aircraft can be optionally manned when required and can carry upto 1,200 pounds, making it versatile for a range of different combat roles. Payloads other UAVs may be comparably higher, but the optional inclusion of an operator, at least as test bed for new sensor technologies could be a major factor that could get NG more than a few orders.
It’s success will be better measured when the aircraft is entered into Joint Forces Command’s Empire Challenge exercise later this month.