Northrop Grumman said it is building a company-funded development and demonstration model of the U.S. Navy’s unmanned MQ-4C Triton broad area maritime surveillance (Bams) aircraft. The company released a photograph on January 8 showing the aircraft being assembled at its Palmdale, Calif., production facility.
The company-owned demonstration aircraft will be fitted with the same sensors and communications suite as the Navy’s Triton program, now in the system development and demonstration (SDD) phase. The aircraft will be used to further testing efforts in preparation for the planned initial operational capability of the Triton in late 2015. Two Triton SDD aircraft are undergoing ground testing, which included a slow speed taxi test in December. The aircraft’s first flight is planned early this year.
“We’ve proven that company-owned systems allow us to reduce risk in testing efforts and deliver capabilities faster to our customers,” said Steve Enewold, Northrop Grumman’s Triton program manager.
The Triton is a marinized version of the Air Force’s RQ-4B Global Hawk fitted with Northrop Grumman’s AN/ZPY-3 multi-function active sensor radar and Raytheon’s Multi-Spectral Targeting System, as well as a new ITT Exelis sense-and-avoid radar. The UAS will complement the Boeing 737-based P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, providing persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. The Navy awarded Northrop Grumman a $1.16 billion SDD contract in April 2008 to build and test two aircraft. The service has a requirement for 68 Tritons.