Northrop Grumman's MQ-4C Triton Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) has completed nine test flights, reaching the half-way point of envelope expansion testing with the U.S. Navy.
Triton UAS. Photo, courtesy of Northrop Grumman.
The testing allows the engineers to validate the Triton's ability to operate at a range of different altitudes and speeds. Flight-testing is occurring at Northrop's manufacturing facility in Palmdale, Calif. Triton carries a variety of different Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) sensor payloads allowing military commanders to gather high-resolution imagery.
Endurance flights of up to 9.4 hours at altitudes up to 50,000 feet have been completed, along with doublets, a maneuver that test the Triton's ability to recover from turbulence impacting the aircraft's flight path.
The U.S. Navy is looking to field 68 Triton UAS to be used alongside manned P-8 Poseidon patrol aircraft for increased maritime surveillance. Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) is calling the Triton a "game changing" platform that will be a major part of the U.S. military's surveillance strategy in the Asia Pacific region.
Future operational capability for the Triton is planned for 24-hour surveillance missions. The Triton is still several years away from operational use.