Northrop Grum­man, US Navy com­plete Tri­ton’s first flight


The Northrop Grum­man Cor­po­ra­tionbuilt MQ-4C Tri­ton high-al­ti­tude un­manned air­craft suc­cess­fully com­pleted its first flight re­cently from the com­pany’s man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity in Palm­dale.

Tri­ton is spe­cially de­signed to fly sur­veil­lance mis­sions up to 24 hours at al­ti­tudes of more than 10 miles – al­low­ing cov­er­age out to 2,000 nau­ti­cal miles. The ad­vanced suite of sen­sors can de­tect and au­to­mat­i­cally clas­sify dif­fer­ent types of ships.

“First flight rep­re­sents a crit­i­cal step in ma­tur­ing Tri­ton’s sys­tems be­fore op­er­a­tionally sup­port­ing the Navy’s mar­itime sur­veil­lance mis­sion around the world,” said Cap­tain James Hoke, Tri­ton pro­gramme man­ager with Naval Air Sys­tems Com­mand. “Re­plac­ing our age­ing sur­veil­lance air­craft with a sys­tem like Tri­ton will al­low us to mon­i­tor ocean ar­eas sig­nif­i­cantly larger with greater per­sis­tence.”

Northrop Grum­man is the prime con­trac­tor to the Navy’s MQ-4C Tri­ton Broad Area Mar­itime Sur­veil­lance pro­gramme.

“Tri­ton is the most ad­vanced in­tel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and re­con­nais­sance [ISR] un­manned air­craft sys­tem ever de­signed for use across vast ocean ar­eas and coastal re­gions,” said Mike Mackey, Northrop Grum­man Tri­ton UAS Deputy Pro­gram Di­rec­tor. “Through a co­op­er­a­tive ef­fort with the Navy and our in­dus­try part­ners, we suc­cess­fully demon­strated the flight con­trol sys­tems that al­low Tri­ton to op­er­ate au­tonomously. We couldn’t be prouder of the en­tire team for this achieve­ment.” Ad­di­tional flight tests will take place from Palm­dale to ma­ture the sys­tem be­fore be­ing flown to the main flight test fa­cil­ity at Naval Air Sta­tion Patux­ent River, Mary­land, later this year.

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