[Avionics Today 09-19-2014] The MQ-4C Triton Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) arrived at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland this week after completing its inaugural cross-country ferry flight, bringing the Navy closer to delivering this UAS capability to the fleet.
|Thales Top Sky ATC system. Photo: Thales
The cross-country flight marked the transition from initial flight test, which established basic safety of flight, to testing that will demonstrate Triton’s capability to perform operational missions in the maritime domain.
“The testing performed here over the next few years is critical to delivering a capability that will provide our warfighter an unparalleled awareness of the maritime environment in locations across the globe,” said Rear Adm. Mat Winter, who oversees the program executive office for unmanned aviation and strike weapons at NAVAIR.
During the approximately 11-hour 3,290-nautical-mile flight originating from Palmdale, Calif., the Triton flew along the southern U.S. border, the Gulf of Mexico and across Florida via an approved instrument route. Operators navigated the aircraft up the Atlantic Coast and Chesapeake Bay at altitudes in excess of 50,000 feet to ensure there were no conflicts with civilian air traffic.
Triton has completed 15 test flights at various speeds and altitudes prior to this ferry flight. Triton operations have been scheduled to start at Pax River within the next several weeks where the integrated test team will conduct further envelope expansion, sensor, communications and interoperability testing. Three Triton test vehicles will fly approximately 2,000 hours before achieving initial operational capability in 2017.