Navy orders three MQ-4C Triton long-range maritime surveillance UAVs
BY John Keller
PATUXENT RIVER NAS, Md. — U.S. Navy aviation surveillance experts are ordering three MQ-4C Triton long-range and long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles
(UAVs) for global maritime surveillance for surface ships
Officials of the Naval Air Systems Command at
Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md., announced
a $303.9 million order to the Northrop Grumman
Aerospace Systems sector in San Diego for the three
Triton low-rate initial production UAVs as part of the
second lot of Triton production. This order includes one
Triton main operation control station, one forward operation control station, trade studies, and tooling.
Northrop Grumman is developing the MQ-4C Triton,
also called the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS)
UAV, to fly maritime surveillance missions as long as 24
hours at altitudes of more than 10 miles to enable coverage out to 2,000 nautical miles. The UAV’s sensors can
detect and classify different types of ships automatically.
The Triton is to 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- 8A Poseidon manned
maritime patrol aircraft.
The Triton’s maritime search radar is called the
Multi-Function Active Sensor (MFAS), and will provide
the UAV and its operators with a 360-degree view of
a large geographic area while providing all-weather
coverage for detecting, classifying, tracking, and identifying points of interest. MFAS is separate from the
Triton’s air-to-air radar. The MFAS radar first flew on
the Triton during testing in April 2015.
Along with the air-to-air and MFAS radar systems, the
MQ-4C will carry an electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor that will provide still imagery and full-motion video
of potential threats; an electronic support measures
package to identify and geolocate radar threat signals;
and an Automatic Identification System (AIS) that will
detect and track vessels equipped with AIS responders.
The MQ-4C Triton is designed to provide combat
information to military authorities like the expedi-
tionary strike group, carrier strike group, and the joint
forces maritime component commander. The Triton air
vehicle is based on the U.S. Air Force RQ-4B Global Hawk,
while its sensors are based on components and systems
already fielded in the U.S. military. The large unmanned
aircraft provides intelligence for large ocean areas to
maintain the common operational and tactical picture of
the maritime battle space. The Triton feeds intelligence,
surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) data to the Global
Information Grid, and can work alone or together with
other aircraft and surface ships.
The MQ-4C Triton’s ability to perform persistent ISR
within a practical range of 2,000 nautical miles enables
the P- 8A aircraft to focus on anti-surface ship warfare,
anti-submarine warfare (ASW), and multi-intelligence. It
can fly as far as 8,200 nautical miles without refueling.
Triton aircraft and support facilities are being based
domestically at Point Mugu Naval Air Station near
Ventura, Calif., and at Jacksonville Naval Air Station, Fla.
Triton UAVs also will be forward-deployed to Kadena Air
Base, Japan; Andersen Air Force Base, Guam; Sigonella
Naval Air Station, Italy; as well as at installations on the
islands of Hawaii and Diego Garcia.
On this contract Northrop Grumman will do the work
in San Diego, Palmdale, and Santa Clarita, Calif.; Red
Oak, Texas; Baltimore; Salt Lake City; Bridgeport, W.Va.;
Indianapolis; Moss Point, Miss.; Montreal; Vandalia, Ohio;
Medford, New York; and other U.S. locations, and should
be finished by April 2021.
FOR MORE INFORMATION visit Northrop Grumman
Aerospace Systems online at
The Navy’s growing MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft fleet will handle
long-range maritime surveillance for surface ships, submarines, and