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

From The Archives

Aviation Week is approaching its 100th anniversary in 2016. In a series of blogs, our editors highlight editorial content from the magazine's long and rich history.


Sep 18, 2015

The U.S.-Russian Moon Landing That Never Happened (1963) 7

U.S. President John F. Kennedy is well known for the 1961 speech to Congress in which he made the Apollo program a national goal. Less remembered is his controversial offer two years later to cooperate with the Soviet Union on a manned lunar landing....More
Sep 10, 2015

Airbus A380 Is Your Hotel In The Sky (2001) 5

In a September 2001 advertisement, Airbus promised to bring glamour back to passenger travel with its new A380, comparing the double-decker airliner to a hotel....More
Sep 9, 2015

Pratt & Whitney's Record Behind the DC-6 Record (1947) 2

Pratt & Whitney takes to the cover of AVIATION to credit its Double Wasp engines for the DC-6's record transatlantic flight....More
Aug 27, 2015

Aviation Week Lifts Veil On Boeing B-52 Bomber (1952) 22

In 1952, Aviation Week provided the first details on the new Boeing B-52 bomber....More
Blog Archive
Penton Corporate

Sponsored Introduction Continue on to (or wait seconds) ×