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Northrop Grumman Firebird

Machdiamond

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Stargazer2006

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Oh, but it is, not to worry! At the time I didn't have enough to do one, but now we do!

The Firebird is is a medium-altitude aircraft that can carry a maximum of four payloads simultaneously and operate up to 40 hours in the unmanned mode. It was developed by Scaled Composites for Northrop Grumman Corp. under a program designated XUAS (presumably for eXperimental Unmanned Aircraft System), under supervision of a team that included Cory and Patti Bird (builders of the wonderful Symmetry).

Northrop Grumman will demonstrate the newly developed, optionally piloted Firebird aircraft at the Defense Department’s Empire Challenge exercise that will begin May 23 in Fort Huachuca, Ariz.., reports Aviation Week.

At the upcoming Empire Challenge exercise, the company plans to demonstrate four payloads: high-definition, full-motion video; electro-optical/infrared sensors; electronic support/direction finding; and communications relay.

Main source: http://defensesystems.com/articles/2011/05/06/agg-northrop-firebird-at-empire-challenge.aspx?admgarea=DS
 

Stargazer2006

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Despite Aviation Week & Space Technology's article yesterday, Northrop Grumman and Scaled still do not communicate on the Firebird on their respective sites. A video was announced on NG's media page yesterday with no explanation, but the link was broken...

Meanwhile, I found this very nice-looking profile view by I. K. Erripis on the DIY DRONES website:
http://www.diydrones.com/photo/scaled-composites-northrop?xg_source=activity
 

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Stargazer2006

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A brand new photo of the Firebird from the rear end. Typical Rutan indeed!

Original hi-res pic can be found here:
http://sitelife.aviationweek.com/ver1.0/Content/images/store/2/1/6238b11b-f9aa-4c3b-b18c-e71536e091b5.Full.jpg
 

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Stargazer2006

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Some specs:
 

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fightingirish

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Video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOZ4m5XkgC0
Graham Warwick aka theworacle said:
Northrop rumman video unveiling its Firebird optionally manned/unmanned aircraft. Designed and built by Scaled Composites as the Model 355, the Firebird is a medium-altitude long-endrance unmanned aircraft to compete with the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper/Predator B, but with the option of build flown manned.
Source:
Code:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOZ4m5XkgC0
 

AeroFranz

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Ok, is it me or in both the three view and the drawings shown around 0:08 in the video show a split (i.e. not joined in the middle) horizontal tail?
 

Machdiamond

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I saw that too, structurally it would not make sense.
Must be a case of part left over before being handed out to marketing.
--Luc
 

Stargazer2006

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What struck me more was the lack of air intake above the engine cowling in the official two-view plan.
 

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The official two view plan is very simplistic, however both Proteus and Wight Knight have a twin-boom design with separate (but more distant). The most closely-related Scaled Composites project should be the model 309 (that led to Adam M-309). Apart from several details and the lack of the second engine at the front, they have more or less the same arrangement.

Stargazer2006 posted a link to my website (thank you!) where I speculated the possibility of swapping the cockpit for a satcom dish like other large UAVs. Northrop published already a photo without a cockpit canopy, it could be just a prototype version (although the N35SX had flied only with a pilot) or that concept is more likely. The photo (from the official NG facebook page):

227224_10150177586910975_90319605974_6972833_5711235_n.jpg
 

AeroFranz

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If you look at the promotional video, around 0:28 there is a CAD animation that shows structural break lines around what I can only imprecisely describe as "canopy lines". Basically you can swap the cabin canopy for the satcom fairing. the interesting part is getting the crew cockpit out, as I don't think you can keep seat, instruments and controls in and have room for the large dish shown in the three view.
 

Stargazer2006

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Northrop Grumman has released some very nice new pictures of the Firebird:
 

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Stargazer2006

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And:
 

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Machdiamond

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Beautiful. :)

Actually this aircraft is particularly good looking.

The first photo makes me wonder whether the cockpit is pressurized. I would have assumed not for an OPV but the light refraction suggests thick transparencies... ???

--Luc
 

flateric

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don't forget NG's Firebird datasheet
http://www.as.northropgrumman.com/products/firebird/assets/data_sheet_Firebird.pdf
 

Stargazer2006

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Machdiamond said:
The first photo makes me wonder whether the cockpit is pressurized.

Given the altitude of "Up to 30,000 ft (9.1 km)" given in the specs sheet (thanks, flateric!) I think the answer to this one is now pretty obvious...
 

Machdiamond

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I don't agree that it is obvious. The weight penalty of pressurisation is substantial, and if there are no pilot an board it is a lot of dead weight to carry around.

When the pilot is there, it can limit itself to 25000ft and there are airplanes certified to that altitude that are not pressurized.

Anybody knows what optional HFE stands for as powerplant option in the specs?

--Luc
 

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HFE stands for Heavy Fuel Engine, so far as I know.
 

Stargazer2006

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Machdiamond said:
I don't agree that it is obvious. The weight penalty of pressurisation is substantial, and if there are no pilot an board it is a lot of dead weight to carry around.
When the pilot is there, it can limit itself to 25000ft and there are airplanes certified to that altitude that are not pressurized.

True. There can be an altitude when operated as a UAS that would be different from when it is operated as a piloted aircraft. Makes sense.
 

Machdiamond

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You're probably right about HFE. Maybe the 300-400Hp diesel project at DeltaHawk.

I was thinking more about this pressurization thing. It would be a good choice where the unmanned variant is not necessarily the baseline mode of operation. So they still have a market for the aircraft where the customer does not want to deal with the cost and complexity of remote/autonomous operation.

--Luc
 

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Machdiamond said:
I was thinking more about this pressurization thing. It would be a good choice where the unmanned variant is not necessarily the baseline mode of operation. So they still have a market for the aircraft where the customer does not want to deal with the cost and complexity of remote/autonomous operation.

Sounds logical.
 

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I believe it doesn't have a pressurized cockpit, not even partially. Having a reciprocating engine and not a jet where air-bleed could provide pressure easily, pressurizing the cockpit would have been a complicated task. For "up to" 30.000ft the oxygen mask of the pilot should be sufficient and as mentioned already most times and when it will required to fly for a long time at high altitude the Firebird should be unmanned.

Also, this is just a prototype, for example Model 115 and Starship had significant differences, Model 309 and Adam M-309 likewise. The HFE is stated as an option but that may require a lot of further development and a production version could have a lot of changes.
 

Stargazer2006

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robotpig said:
for example Model 115 and Starship had significant differences, Model 309 and Adam M-309 likewise.

Adam M-309 was the other name of the Scaled Composites Model 309.
The difference was actually between the Adam M-309 and the Adam A500... ;)
 

Machdiamond

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robotpig said:
...pressurizing the cockpit would have been a complicated task.

No it is very easy, you bleed from the turbo. Like the Lancair Evolution that is using the same engine as the Firebird, and many other pressurized airplanes (Malibu Mirage, Baron 58P, Cessna P210, etc.).

--Luc
 

firepilot

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Machdiamond said:
robotpig said:
...pressurizing the cockpit would have been a complicated task.

No it is very easy, you bleed from the turbo. Like the Lancair Evolution that is using the same engine as the Firebird, and many other pressurized airplanes (Malibu Mirage, Baron 58P, Cessna P210, etc.).

--Luc

Well you are both right to an extent. Getting the air to pressurize it is not hard, and yes it comes from the turbo, However you are also turning the cockpit/fuselage into a pressure vessel, and that is where it gets more complicated and as mentioned, you have definite weight penalties compared to a non-pressurized one . There are quite a few more design considerations to worry about, when you are trying to get it to not leak out air, but you have ducts, wiring, cables, controls, etc to run through the cockpit.
 

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Stargazer2006 said:
Adam M-309 was the other name of the Scaled Composites Model 309.
The difference was actually between the Adam M-309 and the Adam A500... ;)

You are exactly right, my mistake. ::)

Luc & firepilot you have very valid points, I mostly believe (and of course I may be wrong) that considering its role and the fact that the pilot is equipped with oxygen mask (attachment) I found it very unlikely to also have a pressurized cabin.
 

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Machdiamond

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As I said I was really not expecting the first prototype to be pressurized.

My only observation is that the Firebird appears to have thick transparencies to handle it, hence my surprise.

Also, did you notice it does not have a door for the pilot, the entire top half of the cockpit must be removed for access. Would be interesting to see a photo of that. And what about emergency egress. Inquiring minds want to know ;D.

--Luc
 

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It has only one door on the left side, the top half of the cockpit is fixed. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jw2513/5625811648/
 

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flateric

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...
 

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Stargazer2006

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A series of captures from a recent Northrop Grumman promo video on the company's unmanned systems:
 

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