Mar 26, 2014
MQ-4C completes initial flight test phase
The Initial Envelope Expansion tests, concluded on 13 March, were designed to measure the maritime surveillance aircraft's performance at a variety of speeds and altitudes. The MQ-4C flew a total of 81 hours and reached a maximum altitude of 59,950 ft.
The two demonstration aircraft are now being prepared for transition to NASPatuxent River, Maryland, beginning in June.
Triton's software and sensor systems were tested separately on a Gulfstream II surrogate aircraft. Northrop Grumman completed those risk reduction tests of the Multi-Function Active Sensor (MFAS) in 2013.
The MFAS is an active electronically scanned array radar that provides a 360-degree field of view. It uses a combination of electronic scanning and a mechanical rotation, which allows the radar to spotlight a geographic area of interest for extended periods of time rather than hopping around quickly.
Triton's MFAS sensor is designed to work with an Automatic Identification System (AIS). The AIS system can identify and locate a vessel, and then the MFAS radar can take a picture of it. As the aircraft approaches the ship, AN/ZLQ-1 electronic support measures and an electro-optic/infrared sensor - the Raytheon MTS-B - can then be used to confirm the ship's identity.
As a companion to the Boeing P-8A Poseidon manned maritime patrol aircraft, Triton will be capable of adding over 2.7 million square miles of coverage to each single mission.
The USN's plan is to acquire 68 production-model Tritons plus the two demonstration aircraft.
Australia has also expressed intent to purchase the UAVs to accompany its planned P-8 fleet.