Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Northrop unveils new intel-gathering aircraft system

SAN DIEGO (BNS): Northrop Grumman has unveiled a new intelligence-gathering aircraft system which will be able to give real-time high-definition video, infrared imagery, radar and communications signals to the military all together.

Firebird offers a large internal payload bay and an ability to operate multiple intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) and communications payloads simultaneously through a universal interface. The system is designed to be flown as a manned or unmanned aircraft.

The unmanned systems architecture, control andmission systems of the Firebird programme are mainly developed by Northrop Grumman. The company chose Scaled Composites to design, build and test the aircraft – with first flight occurring just 12 months after the initial concept discussions.

"Firebird addresses future budgetary constraints by combining the best of our piloted and unmanned ISR systems into a single solution ready for a variety of ISR missions," Paul Meyer, vice president and general manager of advanced programmes and technology for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems said.

Firebird's universal interface is similar to plugging a memory stick into a personal computer that is automatically recognised without needing to load additional software.

The new system has increased the number of ISR sensors working simultaneously in an aircraft of this size. The aircraft is designed to be flown as a manned or unmanned aircraft and can be quickly modified for either option.

Firebird is set for an operational demonstration in an optionally-piloted configuration from May 23 – June 3, 2011, during Empire Challenge 2011, a military exercise run by U.S. Joint Forces Command.

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