The latest configuration of the Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton made its first flight on July 30. Dubbed Integrated Functional Capability (IFC)-4, the configuration includes for the first time the system’s Multi-INT electronic intelligence sensor package which will meet the US Navy’s Maritime Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Targeting (MISR&T) requirement, as well as the uncrewed maritime ISR requirements of the RAAF.
The Multi-INT package combines with the air vehicle’s AN/ZPY-3 Multi-Function Active Sensor (MFAS) maritime active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, onboard Automatic Identification System (AIS), and MTS-B EO/IR sensor to provide maritime domain awareness.
“Today’s flight is a significant milestone for the program and a testament to the resolve of the entire ITT, their hard work, and passion for test execution and program success,” The US Navy’s Persistent Maritime Unmanned Aircraft Systems program manager, Capt Dan Mackin said in a release. “This flight proves that the program is making significant progress toward Triton’s advanced multi-intelligence upgrade and it brings us closer to achieving the initial operational capability (IOC) milestone.
“The Multi-INT capability that the US Navy and Royal Australian Air Force have procured through Northrop Grumman, our Naval Warfare Centers, and our GFE partners is like no other,” he added. “360 degree AESA maritime radar, full-motion EO/IR video streaming, high-altitude, long-endurance, full-spectrum signals intelligence, and the pipes to send multiple data types to ships, aircraft, and intelligence community ground stations allow our forces to hold adversaries at risk and protect the peace which is so vital to our national interest.”
The first IFC-4 aircraft was modified from one of the original prototypes, and the flight was conducted by the Triton’s Integrated Test Team (ITT) which is comprised of US Navy and Australian personnel, as well as industry staff. The functional check flight included initial aeromechanical test points, demonstrating stability and control of the air vehicle.
Two IFC-3 ‘baseline’ configured Tritons are deployed to Guam to support the US Navy’s 7th fleet under an early operational capability (EOC), while modification work is being conducted on other air vehicles in anticipation of an initial operational capability with the US Navy in 2023.
“The MQ-4C Triton has already had a tremendous positive impact on operations in USINDOPACOM and will continue to provide unprecedented maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities which are especially critical to national interests with the increased focus in the Pacific,” Mackin said.
In a separate company statement, Northrop Grumman vice president and program manager, Triton programs, Doug Shaffer said, “The multi-intelligence configuration of Triton will completely revolutionise how the US Navy and Royal Australian Air Force conduct maritime patrol and reconnaissance missions.”
The RAAF has ordered three of up to seven Tritons so far, with the first aircraft in construction at Northrop Grumman’s Palmdale facility in California. The first RAAF Tritons will reportedly initially be deployed to Guam from 2023 due to delays with the construction of basing facilities at RAAF Base Tindal in the Northern Territory.