In the same day that unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) experts at Northrop Grumman Corp. completed the first flight of the new Navy MQ-4C Triton maritime patrol UAV, Navy experts are making plans to upgrade the UAV’s software.
Officials of the Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md., on 22 May awarded a $15.3 million contract modification to the Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems sector in Bethpage, N.Y., to upgrade the Triton’s software from Windows XP to Windows 7.
The contract modification concerns the MQ-4C Triton Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) systems development and demonstration phase.
Also on 22 May Northrop Grumman experts completed the first flight of the Triton BAMS high-altitude UAV at the Northrop Grumman manufacturing facility in Palmdale, Calif.
Triton is designed to fly maritime surveillance missions for as long as 24 hours at altitudes of more than 10 miles to enable coverage out to 2,000 nautical miles, Northrop Grumman officials say. The UAV’s suite of sensors can detect and classify different types of ships automatically.
The Triton will be a crucial component of the Navy’s 21st century strategy for conducting surveillance of surface ship and submarine traffic in the vast Pacific and other oceans around the globe.
The Triton UAV will work together with the Navy’s P-8 Poseidon manned maritime patrol aircraft. The P-8 is a Boeing 737 passenger jet modified for low-level surveillance and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) missions.
The idea is for the Triton UAV to conduct broad-area surveillance missions, and when it detects a target of interest it alerts a P-8 operating in the area to go in and take a closer look. The P-8 is equipped with air-launched torpedoes and other ASW weapons.
“Triton is the most advanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance [ISR] unmanned aircraft system ever designed for use across vast ocean areas and coastal regions,” says Mike Mackey, Northrop Grumman Triton UAS deputy program director.
Additional Triton flight tests will go from Palmdale to mature the system before being flown to the main flight test facility at Patuxent River NAS later this year. Northrop Grumman won a contract to develop the Triton UAV in 2008. Triton is a modified RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV.
Triton carries a variety of sensor payloads that enable military commanders to gather high-resolution imagery, use radar to detect targets, and provide airborne communications and information sharing capabilities to military units across long distances.
At 130.9 feet, Triton has a wingspan larger than the world’s most common commercial airliner, the Boeing 737. Triton can fly 11,500 miles without refueling.
Northrop Grumman’s Triton industry team includes Aurora Flight Sciences, BAE Systems, Curtis-Wright Corp., L3 Communications, Raytheon, Rolls-Royce, Sierra Nevada Corp. and Vought Aircraft Industries.
For the Triton software upgrade, Northrop Grumman will do the work in Hollywood, Md.; Bethpage, N.Y.; Rancho Bernardo, Calif.; San Diego; Salt Lake City; Stillwater, Okla.; Melbourne, Fla.; and Van Nuys, Calif., and should be finished by April 2014.