Northrop Grumman subsidiary Scaled Composites revealed the first glimpse of its Model 401 experimental prototype on Oct. 11, 2017. Little is known about the aircraft, which seems to have low-observable characteristics. (Courtesy of Scaled Composites)

WASHINGTON — Northrop Grumman subsidiary Scaled Composites debuted a new experimental aircraft, Model 401, in an Oct. 11 announcement of the prototype’s recent first flight.

The company has built two Model 401 prototypes in service of an undisclosed customer “to demonstrate advanced, low-cost manufacturing techniques and to provide aircraft for research flight services to industry partners and the United States government,” it said in a news release.

Both Model 401 planes measure 38 feet long with a 38-foot wingspan, and have an empty weight of 4,000 pounds. The aircraft, which are powered by a Pratt & Whitney JTD15D-5D engine, can reach Mach 0.6 and fly up to three hours at a time. Its maximum takeoff weight is 8,000 pounds.

“This is such an exciting time for us. Scaled is at the forefront of experimental aircraft development and I am fortunate enough to have a front row seat,” said Aaron Cassebeer, a Scaled Composites project engineer. “Today was a great day for our test team. We had a great flight and we are looking forward to the future test program.”

Federal Aviation Administration records show the agency certified both prototypes on April 19.

Scaled Composites announced the first flight of its Model 401 experimental aircraft on Oct. 11, 2017. (Scaled Composites)
Scaled Composites announced the first flight of its Model 401 experimental aircraft on Oct. 11, 2017. (Scaled Composites)

Beyond those scant details, little information exists about Model 401, although its design suggests an interest in low observability.

The photo of Model 401 immediately sparked speculation on Twitter about its mission and capability, with many observers noting its physical similarities to General Atomics’ Predator C Avenger, which has a similar wing and tail shape.