The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command (Navair) and Northrop Grumman said the MQ-4C Triton broad area maritime surveillance aircraft completed its first flight from the company’s Palmdale, Calif., manufacturing facility on May 22. The Global Hawk maritime derivative flew for 80 minutes in restricted airspace and reached an altitude of 20,000 feet.
Navair awarded Northrop Grumman a systems development and demonstration contract to build and test two aircraft in 2008. The Navy’s program of record calls for building 68 Tritons, with initial operational capability planned in 2015. Northrop Grumman rolled out the first MQ-4C in Palmdale in June 2012.
Flight testing of the MQ-4C will continue from Palmdale for the next several months “to mature the system,” Northrop Grumman said. The program team will then relocate the aircraft to the main flight test facility at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., this fall.
When it is produced, the MQ-4C will provide high-altitude, long-endurance maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance from five worldwide locations, according to Navair. It will serve as an adjunct to the Navy’s Boeing 737-based P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, sending data in real time to fleet units to support surface warfare, intelligence, strike and search and rescue missions.