The Triton high-altitude unmanned aircraft is being built for the Navy's Broad Area Maritime Surveillance program. (Northrop Grumman) ()
The Navy’s MQ-4C Triton high-altitude unmanned aircraft has completed nine initial flight tests and is halfway through a process known as “envelope expansion,” according to Triton-builder Northrop Grumman.
The flights at the company’s facility in Palmdale, Calif., are testing the aircraft’s ability to operate at a range of altitudes, speeds and weights. Triton has made flights up to 9.4 hours at altitudes up to 50,000 feet during the tests.
“Completion of envelope expansion will allow the test team to prepare for installation and further testing of Triton’s surveillance sensors,” said Mike Mackey, Northrop Grumman’s Triton program director.
Built for the Navy’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance program, Triton is designed to fly surveillance missions of up to 24 hours at altitudes of more than 10 miles, allowing coverage out to 2,000 nautical miles. It will carry a variety of ISR sensor payloads to gather high-resolution imagery, detect targets, and provide airborne communications and information-sharing capabilities.
The Navy plans to field 68 Tritons, which will be used with the manned P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft to conduct surveillance missions.