SAN DIEGO, May 10 (UPI) -- Northrop Grumman in California has unveiled a new ISR aircraft that allows for simultaneous gathering of intelligence data.
Called Firebird, the aircraft offers a large internal payload bay and an ability to operate multiple intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and communications payloads simultaneously through a universal interface.
The system is designed to be flown as a manned or unmanned aircraft.
As lead for the Firebird program, Northrop Grumman developed the unmanned systems architecture, control and mission systems. The company chose Scaled Composites of California to design, build and test the aircraft, with first flight occurring just 12 months after the initial concept discussions.
"We've harnessed the innovative techniques of Northrop Grumman and Scaled Composites to deliver an unprecedented information-gathering capability," said Paul Meyer, vice president and general manager of advanced programs and technology for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems.
"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."
Firebird's universal interface is similar to plugging a memory stick into a personal computer that is automatically recognized without needing to load additional software. Northrop said.
"Not only have we increased the number of ISR sensors working simultaneously in an aircraft of this size but we can also incorporate various sensors that complement each other -- greatly enhancing Firebird's information-gathering value for warfighters," said Rick Crooks, Northrop Grumman's Firebird program manager.
An operational demonstration of Firebird -- in an optionally piloted configuration -- is scheduled from May 23-June 3 during Empire Challenge 2011, a military exercise run by U.S. Joint Forces Command.