Unmanned Systems

Navy's high-altitude Triton UAS takes a step forward

The MQ-4C Triton has taken another step toward operational integration, with the unmanned maritime surveillance aircraft completing its operational assessment, manufacturer Northrop Grumman announced recently. 

Northrop said that, pending final data analysis, the Triton is ready for milestone C, or low-rate initial production, in acquisition speak. 

“Operational assessment for Triton included several flights which exercised the weapon system through operationally relevant scenarios that demonstrated its readiness to meet the Navy's maritime intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance needs,” said Doug Shaffer of Northrop. “As a result of the flight tests, the program moves one step closer to a milestone C decision later this spring.”

In recently released budget documents, the Navy requested two new Tritons under a $464.7million procurement request as well as a $293 million request for research, development, testing and evaluation for the Triton.

Slated for initial operating capacity in 2018, the Triton is the Navy’s variant of the Air Force’s high-altitude, long endurance RQ-4 Global Hawk and will provide “a persistent maritime ISR capability.”

Despite the good news surrounding the operational test completion, a recent annual report to Congress issued by the director of the Defense Department’s office of Operational Test & Evaluation found that developmental testing of the Triton was slowed due to poor system stability and defective discovery consistent with early developmental testing. Moreover, the report discovered a lack of cybersecurity testing and penetration assessment during operational assessment because the Triton is not authorized yet to operate on the Navy’s operational networks. The report recommended that the Navy conduct such an assessment to correct vulnerabilities. 

A Navy spokesperson told Defense Systems that the Triton program team has reviewed the report’s recommendations and plans to conduct a cybersecurity-cooperative vulnerability and penetration assessment before initial operational test and evaluation. 

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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