THE US Navy’s second MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft system (UAS) has successfully completed its first flight. Operating out of Northrop Grumman’s manufacturing facility in Palmdale, California, a Navy and Northrop Grumman flight test team conducted the 6.7-hour maiden flight on October 15. “Our team worked incredibly hard to get the second Triton ready for first flight, which will help us plan its ferry flight to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, (Maryland)” said Mike Mackey, Triton programme director, Northrop Grumman. “We’re eager to continue working with the Navy during the next phase of Triton’s flight test programme to speed up its availability to the warfighter.”
In preparation for a safe ferry flight to Pax River, which is planned for later this month, the aircraft will now undergo various ground checks and inspections. Northrop Grumman is the prime contract for the Triton UAS, which is a variant of the US Air Force Global Hawk, which has been tailored to US Navy requirements. Specifically designed for maritime missions of up to 24 hours, Triton can fly at altitudes higher than 10 miles, allowing for coverage of 1 million square nautical miles of ocean. Its advanced suite of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) sensors can detect and classify different types of ships.
The US Navy plans to acquire a total of 68 Tritons. The first Triton had made its maiden flight at Palmdale on May 22, 2013. It was then delivered to Pax River on September 18, 2014. Developed under the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) programme, the Triton is intended to provide the US Navy with real-time ISR over vast ocean and coastal regions, enabling continuous maritime surveillance, while also having the ability to assist with search and rescue missions. It will complement the US Navy’s manned Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft. Alan Warnes