New Spy Drone Program Finally Gets Off The Ground


The world’s oceans are massive, easily big enough to hide a whole fleet of surface ships if not carefully monitored. That’s why the Pentagon’s newest Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) platform will keep its eyes peeled for enemy carrier groups from 60,000 feet (18km) up.

The Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton does over the ocean what the MQ-4 Global Hawk does over land: continuous wide-area aerial surveillance. It’s designed to take over the role of the ageing P-3 Orion, complement the Boeing P-8 Poseidon, a multimission aircraft based on the 737,,and relay ISR information — specifically signal intelligence — to both carrier groups in the region and the Joint Forces Maritime Component Commander.

The Triton measures 15m long with a 40m wingspan. A single Rolls-Royce AE 3007 turbofan powers the UAS to speeds up to 600km/h and altitudes up to 60,000 feet (18km) while toting more than 2500kg of equipment. It can then remain aloft for up to 30 hours and cover some 2000nm. Since the Triton will face different climates and conditions than the Global Hawk, many of the MQ-4C’s have been re-engineered for naval operations. “The modifications include anti/de-ice, bird strike and lightning protection to meet planned mission profiles and a due regard radar for safe separation from other aircraft,” Capt Jim Hoke, program manager, told Defense Tech.