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Triton Completes First Round of Flight Tests Ahead of Move to East Coast

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MQ-9C Trition. Northrop Grumman Photo

MQ-9C Trition. Northrop Grumman Photo

A combined U.S. Navy and contractor team has completed the initial flight test phase for the Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton unmanned jet-powered surveillance aircraft at the company’s Palmdale, Calif., facility.

“The system performed exceptionally well during flight test,” said Capt. Jim Hoke, Naval Air Systems Command’s Triton program manager in a statement released on Friday.

According to the Navy, the initial envelope expansion flight test series was completed on March 13 and consisted of 13 sorties. The team had scheduled 14 flights, but completed the work in one less sortie than expected. According to the Navy, the MQ-4C flew for a total of 81 hours, reached a maximum altitude of 59,950 feet and executed 568 data point during these initial tests.

Having completed its initial trials at Palmdale, the Navy expects the MQ-4C to make a cross-country flight to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., some time in June or July.

A second MQ-4C will also be delivered to the Maryland base shortly thereafter.
The two test aircraft will then have to be equipped sensors systems such as the Northrop AN/ZPY-3 multi-function array sensor (MFAS), AN/ZLQ-1 electronic support measures suite and the MTS-B electro-optical/infrared camera system that will be installed on operational Tritons.

Currently, the MQ-4C sensor suite is being vetted on a surrogate test platform. If testing progresses as planned, the MQ-4C will become operational in 2017. Ultimately, the Navy hopes to buy 68 of the unmanned Triton aircraft to supplement the capabilities of its Boeing P-8A Poseidon fleet.