MELBOURNE, Australia — Northrop Grumman has responded to Australia’s request for information on a new maritime surveillance capability with its optionally manned Firebird aircraft, 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.
“We haven’t directly spoken to the Australian government yet, but it’s an application and a mission set that we certainly believe has some applicability. We will be following that with Border Force very closely, [and] we have responded to the request for information,” Chappel said.
“We’re not just going to stand up and say: ‘We have a platform [and] it’s the right answer.’ We work closely with customers to determine what their mission sets are. Our response to the RFI is an architecture and it’s a set of capabilities,” he added.
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.
“We’re marketing the airplane now because it has gotten to the stage where the initial production program is assured and we wanted to make sure we were all good before we start talking,” Chappel said.