Production Firebird Breaks Cover [Updated]


With temperatures hovering around zero, there were few witnesses around Mojave early on Sunday morning to see a new two-seat production derivative of Northrop Grumman’s secretly-developed Firebird make its first flight.

Northrop Grumman

The optionally piloted vehicle (OPV) is a 30% bigger version of the medium-altitude unmanned air vehicle demonstrator first revealed by Northrop in 2011. The second seat has been added at the request of a mystery buyer, an order from whom has kicked off an initial low-rate production run of two per year for the next five years.

The original single-seater version was designed to enable the Firebird to transit through commercial airspace as a conventional aircraft. According to Northrop, the addition of the second seat now gives users the option of a co-pilot and/or sensor systems operator position, while retaining the original goal of providing a low-cost platform for persistent surveillance.

Northrop Grumman

If not being operated in piloted mode, the Firebird is designed to be commanded by ground station to operate in either line-of-sight (LOS) unmanned mode, or beyond LOS mode. For beyond LOS, the canopy comes off and the pilot’s avionics are removed to be replaced by an L3 satcom antenna. For more details of the two-seat Firebird check out our fuller report: Northrop Grumman Reveals Bigger Firebird.

Please or Register to post comments.

What's Ares?

Aviation Week's defense blog

A Century of Aviation Week

Aviation Week & Space Technology is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. In a series of blogs, our editors highlight editorial content from the magazine's long and rich history.


Aug 5, 2016

Airbus A-300: This Is The Start Of Something Big (1968) 15

The A-300 was touted as quiet, spacious, more efficient and twice as reliable as other airliners of the day....More
Aug 5, 2016

707 Flight Testing – And Not Talking About Rolls (1956) 18

Our 1956 test pilot story goes into great detail about the overall impressive handling capabilities of the Boeing 707....More
Blog Archive
Penton Corporate

Sponsored Introduction Continue on to (or wait seconds) ×