Northrop Grumman is pitching optionally manned Firebird aircraft to Australia

Northrop Grumman is pitching the optionally manned Firebird aircraft in response to Australia’s request for information on a new maritime surveillance capability, a company representative said Thursday.

Speaking at the 2019 Avalon Airshow, Brian Chappel, vice president and general manager of autonomous systems, said the Firebird could meet some of Australia’s project requirements, which is being managed through the Department of Home Affairs and the Australian Border Force.

Chappel noted that there has been no direct contact with the Australian government yet.

Chappel also indicated that other, undisclosed platforms could be offered alongside Firebird, once more details of the commonwealth’s requirements are known.

Firebird is developed by Northrop subsidiary Scaled Composites in Mojave, California. Chappel said two prototypes are currently flying and a third will join the program shortly. Production aircraft will be built at an undisclosed location in Southern California.

Firebird is a medium-altitude, long-endurance aircraft with a 30-hour endurance, with a nominal payload. Chappel said the aircraft has been tested with more than 24 different intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance payloads, which can be swapped in 30 minutes. The initial customer is the U.S. government.