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Navy’s New Surveillance UAV’s First Flight

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Northrop Grumman-built Triton unmanned aircraft system completed its first flight May 22 from the company's manufacturing facility in Palmdale, Calif. Northrop Grumman Photo

Northrop Grumman-built Triton unmanned aircraft system completed its first flight May 22 from the company’s manufacturing facility in Palmdale, Calif. Northrop Grumman Photo

The Navy held the first test flight for its next-generation surveillance unmanned aerial vehicle, Northrop Grumman’s MQ-4C Triton.

Wednesday’s 80-minute flight, from a Northrop Grumman’s in Palmdale, Calif., will mark the start of flight testing for the Navy’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) system that will bear the bulk of the Navy’s long-range reconnaissance mission into the 21st century.

Triton is similar to the Air Force’s RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV, but tailored for maritime missions with a different set of sensors for use over water.

“The Triton will fly missions for 24 hours at altitudes greater than 10 miles, allowing the system to monitor 2,000 nautical miles of ocean and littoral areas at a time,” according to a release from Naval Air Systems Command.

A planned 68 Tritons will work in tandem with the Navy’s P-8A Poseidon manned maritime surveillance aircraft.

“The MQ-4C will complement our manned P-8 because it can fly for long periods, transmit its information in real-time to units in the air and on ground, as well as use less resources than previous surveillance aircraft,” said Rear Adm. Sean Buck, Navy’s Patrol and Reconnaissance Group commander in a Wednesday statement.

Tritons are anticipated to operate from Naval Air Station Sigonnella, Italy, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam and an undisclosed location in the Middle East, Navy officials told USNI News on Wednesday.

The Navy plans for the Triton to enter active service in 2015, according to Naval Air Systems Command.