Northrop Grumman’s MQ-4C Triton completed its first flight on May 22, taking off from Palmdale, California at 7.10am for a 1.5 hour test flight.
“First flight represents a critical step in maturing Triton’s systems before operationally supporting the Navy’s maritime surveillance mission around the world,” said Capt James Hoke, Triton program manager with Naval Air Systems Command. “Replacing our ageing surveillance aircraft with a system like Triton will allow us to monitor ocean areas significantly larger with greater persistence.”
“Through a cooperative effort with the Navy and our industry partners, we successfully demonstrated the flight control systems that allow Triton to operate autonomously,” Mike Mackey, Northrop Grumman Triton UAS deputy program director, said.
Further test flight tests will take place from Palmdale before the Triton is flown to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, later this year for continued testing.
Triton, a development of the RQ-4 Global Hawk, is being developed for the US Navy’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) program. Northrop Grumman says the Triton can fly surveillance missions up to 24 hours at altitudes of more than 16km, allowing coverage out to 2,000 nautical miles, while its sensor suite cancan detect and automatically classify different types of ships.
The US Navy’s program of record calls for 68 Tritons to be built, while on May 16 the Australian government confirmed its interest in acquiring the Triton by announcing the issuance of a Letter of Request (LOR) seeking further information from the US on the program. Seven Tritons would be acquired under AIR 7000 Phase 1B.