The revelation of two all-new aircraft concepts from Northrop Grumman show that the manufacturer is planning an aggressive new push to expand deeper into the market for unmanned air vehicles.
The two concept designs - MQ-X and MUVR - also are the first glimpse inside Northrop's internal strategy for addressing two of the US military's potential requirements in the next decade.
MQ-X is the US Air Force term for a future replacement of the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator/MQ-9 family of UAVs.
MUVR, meanwhile, has been identified by Northrop as a UAV that is designed to resupply the navy's ships.
Both images appeared in a 10-month-old briefing by a Northrop Grumman executive to potential subcontractors. In a slide entitled "today's focused opportunity set", the images of MQ-X and MUVR appeared in a line-up of the company's airborne programs, which then included the KC-45 tanker, aerial common sensor and EP-X.
Northrop now says both concepts are outdated, but confirms they are products of a new advanced concepts division established in January 2009 under the leadership of vice president and general manager Paul Meyer.
Both of Northrop's nearly year-old design concepts for MQ-X and MUVR appear to appropriate key technologies from the company's past even as it looks to the future.
The image of the MQ-X design concept bears more than a passing resemblance to the nose and fuselage of the RQ-4 Global Hawk, although the wings and tail surfaces are designed to meet the requirements for a medium-altitude, multipurpose UAV.
The fan-in-wing MUVR concept, meanwhile, borrows the vertical take-off and landing system last seen on the shortlived Ryan XV-5 Vertiplane. As the company that acquired Teledyne Ryan more than a decade ago, Northrop is the legacy manufacturer of the XV-5.
Northrop officials first acknowledged the MUVR's existence at last year's Paris air show after being asked to identify a grainy image that appeared in a presentation for the news media.
The blurry shape on the slide was first identified as a new UAV called WildThing, but Northrop later corrected the name of the aircraft to MUVR.
Northrop has declined to release further information about the MUVR concept, including what the acronym stands for, saying such details might compromise the company's strategy.