Navy Buys Three MQ-4 Tritons, Pays For Growler Jamming Upgrade Development

December 26, 2019 11:12 AM - Updated: December 27, 2019 6:58 AM
Two Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton unmanned aerial vehicles sit on the tarmac at a Northrop Grumman test facility in Palmdale, Calif., in May 2013. US Navy photo.

The Navy awarded Northrop Grumman a pair of contracts worth nearly $287 million to buy unmanned surveillance aircraft and to develop upgraded tactical jamming capabilities on manned aircraft.

The Navy announced the contracts just before Christmas.

The Navy awarded Northrop Grumman a $251.6 million contract modification to build three low-rate initial production MQ-4 Triton reconnaissance aircraft. The aircraft are massive for unmanned aerial vehicles – wingspan of 130.9 feet and length of 47.6 feet, according to a Naval Air Systems Command fact sheet.

The Navy planned for the Triton to reach initial operational capability in 2021, according to a presentation made by NAVAIR officials during the Navy League’s 2018 Sea Air Space Exposition. The first squadron deployed to Guam in September, reported Breaking Defense.

In September 2018, one of the Navy’s MQ-4 Tritons crashed.

The Navy also awarded Northrop Grumman a $35.2 million to develop upgrades for the tactical jamming capabilities on EA-18G Growler aircraft.

“The AN/ALQ-218 tactical jamming receiver is designed to provide a high probability of intercept under “look-through” operations – a meshing of jamming and listening,” according to Northrop Grumman.

Northrop Grumman is developing an upgrade to the AN/ALQ-218 system to it can both support enemy radar threat jamming and allow for direction finding and geo-location, parameter measurement and intentional modulation-on-pulse detection, according to Northrop Grumman.

“Improved connectivity and linked displays are the primary design features implemented to reduce the operator workload,” according to a specifications list by the Pentagon’s office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, DOT&E.

Northrop Grumman expects to finish installing the upgraded equipment by May 2022.

Northrop Grumman is already in the middle of developing the Next Generation Jammer – Low Band or NGJ-LB to replace the ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming System on Growlers. The old ALQ-99 equipment on Growlers dates back to the EA-6B Prowler aircraft.

This effort will likely cost about $1 billion when it is completed.

Ben Werner

Ben Werner

Ben Werner is a staff writer for USNI News. He has worked as a freelance writer in Busan, South Korea, and as a staff writer covering education and publicly traded companies for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., Savannah Morning News in Savannah, Ga., and Baltimore Business Journal. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree from New York University.

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