Year of the Triton
High-altitude, high-endurance UAV for the Navy will begin flight tests this year
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
The installation of full missions
systems will be balanced between
the demands of the flight test program, the system integration labs
and planned maintenance. To
enable this flexibility, the program
possesses appropriate mass simulators for various missions systems.
Integration of the full mission systems suite will be tested prior to
completion of the test program.
“The MQ-4C Triton will conduct
initial envelope expansion testing in
“The current plan is to fly the initial five-to-eight
envelope expansion flights before ferrying to Pax
River,” Enewold said.
Some of the mission systems for the Triton already
are flying. Northrop Grumman is using a Gulfstream II
aircraft to carry the sensors for their testing and integration. As of early January, 16 surrogate flights had
been conducted on the Gulfstream II for the ZPY- 3
Multifunction Active System, the Triton’s radar. The
sensor systems, including electro-optical/infrared cameras, electronic surveillance measures and the
Automatic Identification System, will be flown on
SDD- 2, which will fly following the initial envelope
expansion flights of SDD- 1.
Northrop Grumman has started building its first
production-representative aircraft at its facilities in
Moss Point, Miss. The UAV is scheduled to be delivered next year to support Initial Operation Test and
The MQ-4C and the Air Force’s RQ-4B Global Hawk
“share 367 common parts, and we’ve created an inte-
The first flights of the first of two developmental high-altitude,
high-endurance MQ-4C Triton unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)
are expected early this year.
■ Fabrication of the first production MQ-4C is under way.
■ One squadron on each coast will support orbits for the numbered fleet commanders.
■ Northrop Grumman is building its own at-sea surveillance UAV
for Triton system development.
This is slated to be a momentous year for the U.S. Navy’s maritime patrol community with the first deployment of the P-8A Poseidon aircraft and the first flight of the MQ-4C Triton high-altitude, high-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle
(UAV). The two aircraft are designed to complement
each other to give the Navy a high degree of maritime
The Northrop Grumman Triton is expected to make
its first flight early in 2013. The first of two System
Development and Demonstration (SDD) aircraft has
been going through system checks on the ground since
its roll-out last summer.
The two developmental aircraft are not identical and
are planned for different tests, according to Capt. Jim
Hoke, the Navy’s Triton program manager. The first
aircraft, SDD- 1, is highly instrumented with “orange
wire” and will be used for airworthiness testing. The
second aircraft, SDD- 2, primarily will be used for sensor testing.
“Both aircraft are capable of carrying full mission systems,” said Steve Enewold, vice president and program
manager for the Northrop Grumman Triton UAS Program.
“The Navy procured two sets of mission systems
[and spares],” Hoke said.