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Triton UAV completes initial flight testing

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March 24, 2014

The MQ-4C Triton test aircraft makes its approach for landing March 13 at Palmdale, Califo...

The MQ-4C Triton test aircraft makes its approach for landing March 13 at Palmdale, California, marking the conclusion of initial flight testing (Photo by Alan Radecki)

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The Triton UAV's initial flight test program, which kicked off with the unmanned aircraft's first flight last May, has been completed. Now cleared to fly at various altitudes, speeds and weights, the Triton is on track to be introduced into the US Navy fleet in 2017.

Based on the Global Hawk UAV, the MQ-4C Triton is designed to carry a variety of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) sensor payloads and will be used by the US Navy as an adjunct to the Boeing P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft. With a range of 2,000 nautical miles (2,300 miles/3,700 km), the Navy says the UAV will cover more than 2.7 million sq mi (6.9 million sq km) in a single mission.

Over the course of the test program, known as Initial Envelope Expansion (IEE), the Triton test aircraft took to the air 13 times from Northrop Grumman's manufacturing facility in Palmdale, California. The company says the program, which included several long-endurance flights, saw the test aircraft clock up a total flight time of 81 hours and execute 568 data points at altitudes of up to 59,950 ft (18,273 m).

A second test aircraft is now being prepared for flight, before both are ferried to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. The first test aircraft is due to make its first cross-country flight to NAS Pax River in June/July, with the second test aircraft to follow shortly after.

Once there, the aircraft will be fitted with sensor suites before further flight testing intended to validate the capabilities of each payload resumes in the northern summer. The sensor systems, which include a multi-function sensor array (MFAS), are currently being tested separately on a surrogate aircraft and will be configured to function in a maritime environment.

The US Navy plans to build 68 Triton UAVs for persistent ISR mission across ocean and coastal regions.

Sources: Northrop Grumman, Naval Air Systems Command

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
3 Comments

Finding more ways to kill people is obviously more profitable than finding ways to enhance people's lives.

ezeflyer
25th March, 2014 @ 11:30 am PDT

@ezeflyer Did computers and the internet enhance your life at all?

Mitko Ian
26th March, 2014 @ 01:54 pm PDT

@ Mitko Ian: Did the government dump billions of taxpayer dollars into computers and the internet? Does the government continue to dump billions of dollars into computers and the internet?

Our government spends more on defense (all aspects) than any other single program in the U.S. and more that the GDP of some of our allies and enemies.

The trickle down effect from these investments in technology today is no where near the level it was 20 plus years ago. We (the U.S.) arguably have the best military in the world in terms of technology but a vast portion of this technology is never used because we have never been at war since the end of WWII (without the declaration of war our military is limited in the actions they can take and the methods/tools used to achieve those actions).

At some point the people will need to call the bureaucrats (civilian and military alike) out and hold them accountable for the monies wasted simply because they want to have the neatest, newest toys to play with.

Rt1583
26th March, 2014 @ 07:42 pm PDT
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