Northrop Grumman's Firebird performed flawlessly at Empire Challenge, said Steve Nichols, program manager at the company.

The design concept first came together in February 2009, and fabrication began that May. Final assembly began in August, and the aircraft's first flight was in February 2010.

The aircraft was demonstrated at the US Army's Empire Challenge 2011 at Ft. Huachuca, Arizona, where it was put through tests mimicking an operational environment, including using four sensors simultaneously. Northrop Grumman brought three sensors to Empire Challenge, and was integrated with five additional payloads brought without notice by the Army; Nichols declined to comment on Firebird's performance with the surprise payloads. In manned configuration the pilot can monitor, but not control the onboard sensors.

 ©2011 Billypix

Though Firebird is intended as a test bed, Nichols said that both US and international customers had expressed interest in the aircraft's capabilities. Nichols declined to comment on the possibility of additional production beyond the single flying airframe.

Source: Flight Daily News