Military Embedded Systems

U.S. Navy MQ-4C Triton UAS completes maiden flight


May 24, 2013

Brandon Lewis

Technology Editor

Embedded Computing Design

U.S. Navy MQ-4C Triton UAS completes maiden flight

PALMDALE, CA. The MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft completed its maiden flight from the Northrop Grumman manufacturing facility in Palmdale, CA. The Triton Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) is a high-altitude UAS that will be used for surveillance missions by the U.S. Navy to monitor large ocean expanses and coastal regions.

A cooperative U.S. Navy and Northrop Grumman team conducted the roughly 1.5-hour flight test on Wednesday morning at 7:10 A.M. Pacific Time. Further flight tests at Palmdale will be conducted to ensure system maturity before being flown to the primary test facility at the Naval Air Station in Patuxent River, MD, later this year.

"First flight represents a critical step in maturing Triton's systems before operationally supporting the Navy's maritime surveillance mission around the world," says Captain James Hoke, Triton Program Manager, Naval Air Systems Command. "Replacing our aging surveillance aircraft with a system like Triton will allow us to monitor ocean areas significantly larger with greater persistence."

With a wingspan of 130.9 feet, Triton has a maximum endurance of 28 hours and can reach altitudes of more than 10 miles, which enables coverage out to 2,000 nautical miles. The UAS can fly 11,500 miles before refueling.

Advanced sensors on Triton are able to detect and automatically classify types of ships. The Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) sensor payloads will use radar to detect targets, provide airborne communications and information sharing, and gather high-resolution imagery for Command and Control (C2) operations.

"Triton is the most advanced ISR UAS ever designed for use across vast ocean areas and coastal regions," says Mike Mackey, Northrop Grumman Triton UAS Deputy Program Director. "Through a cooperative effort with the Navy and our industry partners, we successfully demonstrated the flight control systems that allow Triton to operate autonomously.”

Northrop Grumman was awarded a 2008 contract to develop two Triton aircraft. The Navy program of record states that 68 Tritons for production.

More information on the Triton UAS can be found at



Featured Companies
Unmanned - ISR