As of Aug. 23, the three test Tritons had flown 82
flight test events for 509 flight hours, with the longest
flight to date being 12. 2 hours.
The test flights have included exchange of information with P-8A Poseidon patrol aircraft.
“During a flight test in June, Triton and Poseidon
successfully exchanged full-motion video for the first
time in flight via a Common Data Link,” Rider said.
“The test demonstrated Triton’s ability to track a target
with its electro-optical/infrared camera to build situa-
tional awareness for a distant P- 8 aircrew.”
Development also is under way for a system needed
to avoid midair collisions between Tritons and other
aircraft, a sense-and-avoid radar (SAAR).
The Navy awarded a $39 million contract to
Northrop Grumman in June 2015 to redesign the Thin
Tile Arrays in the antenna assembly for integration into
a SAAR Engineering Development Model radar and
demonstrate the model, Rider said.
“Work on the SAAR system during this phase
is scheduled for completion by January. The Navy
intends to field a viable SAA solution that includes an
air-to-air radar for Triton by fiscal 2022,” he said.
Rider said that the program is resolving technical
issues in the Triton.
“IFC 2 encountered issues in the navigation system,
the flight control computer, system integration and system stability,” he said. “These issues have been resolved,
with demonstrated performance in flight test, including
the completion of Operational Assessment in December
2015. Triton flew more than 60 hours during its opera-
tional assessment. The Navy/Northrop Grumman team
analyzed sensor imagery and validated radar performance
of Triton’s sensors at varying altitudes and ranges, and the
system’s ability to classify targets and
Vital components of the Triton
UAS are the main operating base
(MOB) and the forward operating
“Flying the MQ-4C aircraft and
executing missions will occur at
one of Triton’s MOB MCSs [Mission
Control Systems] which is has a
similar function to a U.S. Air Force
Global Hawk Mission Control
Element,” Rider said. “Triton’s
three MOB MCSs will be located
in Jacksonville ( 1) and Whidbey
Island ( 2). Triton uses a FOB MCS
for launch and recovery efforts.
Both the Triton MOB MCS and FOB
MCS are building-based rather than
mobile units as the Air Force uses.
Triton’s MCS FOB and MOB are currently in develop-
ment and test phase, which falls in conjunction with the
aircraft production timeline.”
A favorable Milestone C decision — necessary to
begin low-rate initial production — was made during
the Defense Acquisition Board meeting on Aug. 22. The
Acquisition Decision Memorandum awaits signing.
Meanwhile, the Navy continues to operate the
MQ-4C’s predecessor, the RQ-4A Global Hawk Broad-Area
Maritime Surveillance-Demonstration (BAMS-D), in the
U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. The RQ-4As
had flown more than 20,400 hours by August. On April 1,
operational deployment of the BAMS-D was shifted from
Hawaii-based commander, Patrol Reconnaissance Wing
Two, to commander, Patrol Reconnaissance Wing 11, the
parent unit of VUP- 19.
With the first deployment set for 2018, VUP- 19 is
looking forward to its stand-up.
“It goes without saying that there will be a lot of logistical and technological challenges for the first operational
[VUP] squadron in naval aviation,” Stinespring said. “It
is equally apparent, however, that the characteristics that
make it unique will make it extraordinary. Although
Naval Air Systems Command manages the MQ-4C
program and commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance
Group, is the fleet sponsor, advanced concepts, capabilities and personnel are being leveraged from across the
Navy to bring Triton to bear.
“As a member of that team, specifically VUP- 19, I
think our main challenge will be to successfully hitch
our experience and cultural tenants with the advanced
technology to realize the full potential of both. Every
Triton team member I have met is looking forward to
that challenge,” he said. n
An MQ-4C Triton prepares for a flight test in June at Naval Air Station Patuxent
River, Md. During two recent tests, the unmanned aerial system completed its
first heavy weight flight and demonstrated its ability to communicate with the
P- 8 aircraft while airborne.