[Avionics Today March 24, 2014] Northrop Grumman
's MQ-4C Triton Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) has finished its initial flight testing phase in Palmdale, Calif., the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR).
The Navy's unmanned MQ-4C Triton approaches Northrop Grumman's flight test facility in Palmdale, Calif. Photo, courtesy of NAVAIR.
The initial flight-testing, Initial Envelope Expansion, provides evaluation of the aircraft's performance at a variety of speeds and altitudes. Engineers from the NAVAIR-Northrop team completed 81 flight hours, reaching a maximum altitude of 59,950 feet with the Triton.
NAVAIR is looking to use the Triton as an adjunct to the manned P-8A aircraft providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities for its Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force.
"The system performed exceptionally well during flight test," said Jim Hoke, Triton UAS program manager, adding that the team's job is "far from over, with fleet delivery still a few years away."
A separate surrogate aircraft is providing testing for the Triton's software and sensor systems.
According to NAVAIR, the Triton is scheduled for entry into service in 2017.