The Northrop Grumman-built Triton unmanned aircraft system has completed its intial flight tests. (Bob Brown/U.S. Navy)
The U.S. Navy's MQ-4C Triton UAV has completed its initial flight tests. The testing, called Initial Envelope Expansion, evaluated the Triton under a variety of speeds and altitudes, according to a Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) announcement.
The Triton, a maritime version of Northrop Grumman's Global Hawk, flew a total of 81 hours and reached a maximum altitude of 59,950 feet during 13 out of 14 scheduled tests. The aircraft's software and sensors, including the multi-function array sensor (MFAS), are being tested separately on a surrogate aircraft.
The initial flight testing was performed at Northrop Grumman's Palmdale, Calif., facility. After a maintenance period, the first Triton will take its first cross-country flight in June or July for further testing at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., with the second test aircraft following shortly afterwards. Sensors will be integrated into both aircraft for the summer flight tests. The MQ-4C is scheduled for deployment in 2017.
"The system performed exceptionally well during flight test, which is a reflection of years of hard work and dedication by our team," said Capt. Jim Hoke, NAVAIR's UAS program manager. "Our job is far from over with fleet delivery still a few years away, but each of our team members should reflect on how far we have come and be proud of this accomplishment."
With a range of more than 2,000 nautical miles, the high-altitude Triton can cover more than 2.7 million square miles in a single mission, according to the Navy. It will operate alongside P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.