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A two-seat production derivative of Northrop Grumman’s secretly developed Firebird medium-altitude optionally piloted vehicle (OPV) demonstrator has begun test flights for an unidentified customer.
Flown by two Northrop test pilots, the OPV made its first flight from Mojave, Calif., on Nov. 12. Powered by a single Lycoming TEO-540E piston engine, the twin-boom configured aircraft climbed to 3,880 ft. and reached a maximum speed of 100 kt. during a short, 6-min. circuit.
Some 30% larger than the Firebird demonstrator unveiled in 2011, the production-ready variant is 35.5 ft. in length and has a wingspan of 72.2 ft. The second pilot position was added at the request of the customer, adding a new dimension to the concept of a purpose-designed UAV with the option of an onboard pilot.