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Northrop Grumman unveiled the FIREBIRD optionally-piloted intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) product line at the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford last week.

Delivering what the company describes as “unprecedented flexibility,” the product line also delivers medium altitude, long endurance (MALE) multi-mission flexibility and unbeatable value. Available in manned, autonomous and optionally-piloted configurations, FIREBIRD is designed to deliver critical ISR capability to meet customer mission needs.

Flexibility, whether in cockpit configuration, payloads, or in owning and purchasing FIREBIRD, is at the core of what makes this aircraft such an attractive ISR option for government partners and private industry […] Having flown over two dozen sensors on FIREBIRD’s proven architecture, we are ready to offer FIREBIRD to a wide range of nations, US government and civilian agencies, and businesses with critical data collection needs,” commented Northrop Grumman’s Vice President, Autonomous Systems, Brian Chappel.

The company also announced agreements with Tenax Aerospace and Grand Sky Development Company for rights to purchase FIREBIRD. Grand Sky is the first commercial unmanned aerial vehicle testing and training centre in the United States, located in Grand Forks, ND. Tenax Aerospace is a leading provider of special mission aircraft and related aviation services to US government and commercial customers. Both companies see FIREBIRD as meeting critical information gaps for their businesses.

We are excited to bring FIREBIRD to Grand Sky and to utilize its long-endurance and variable payload capabilities for commercial customers. Our goal is to support energy infrastructure monitoring and humanitarian and disaster relief operations by leveraging FIREBIRD’s range, altitude and endurance […] We see the incredible efficiencies to be gained in the market with technology like FIREBIRD, enabling affordable-data gathering on a scale not previously available to the commercial market space,” explained Grand Sky President, Thomas Swoyer, Jr.

FIREBIRD allows Tenax Aerospace to bring industry-leading adaptability and flexibility in data collection at an extremely affordable price point to meet the needs of our sophisticated US government and global security customers […] FIREBIRD provides a unique flexibility and responsiveness that we feel is essential for the critical missions we support today and in the future,” added Tenax Aerospace Chairman, Tom Foley.

The platform is equipped with wide band line-of-sight (LoS) and/or beyond-line-of-sight (BLoS) data links, onboard storage and accessible processing for rapid data exploitation, ensuring timely completion of missions for industry and government customers. The system’s unique design allows sensors to be changed rapidly as plug-and-play devices, reducing first-time payload integration time from months to days and enabling rapid field changes in less than an hour, increasing operational availability and tailored mission suitability. FIREBIRD delivers 30+ hours of endurance at up to 25,000 ft, providing customers near real-time actionable intelligence.


FIREBIRD will provide operators with near real-time actionable intelligence. (Photos: Northrop Grumman)

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