The appearance of the Northrop Grumman Firebird, which was spotted on The DEW Line last Tuesday and identified as Firebird by Aviation Week on Thursday, raises many thoughts.
Among them: too bad the Scaled Composites Model 355 didn't exist six years ago, or the army's extended-range multi-purpose [ERMP] competition could have been a lot more interesting.
The Firebird seems built not so much to beat the air force's MQ-1B Predator but the army's MQ-1C Gray Eagle. It also fills what has become a curiously yawning gap between two sub-categories within the class of medium-altitude long endurance (MALE) unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). The chart below shows the Firebird is the first UAS to populate the gap between roughly 1,500kg and 4,500kg for maximum take-off weight. With a 2,200 maximum take-off weight, the Firebird is still at the low-end of that range.