The UAV is called the MQ-4C Triton, which has an endurance of 24 hours at altitudes of more than 10,000 feet, allows coverage out to 2,000 nautical miles and whose sensors can detect and automatically classify different ships.
"First flight represents a critical step in maturing Triton's systems before operationally supporting the Navy's maritime surveillance mission around the world," said Capt. James Hoke, Triton program manager with 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."
The first flight, which involved a team of Northrop and Navy personnel, took place at Palmdale, Calif. Additional flight tests will take place from Palmdale to mature the system before it is delivered to a main flight test facility at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md.
Northrop Grumman in 2008 was awarded a systems development and demonstration contract to build two aircraft. Members of its team included Aurora Flight Sciences, BAE Systems, Curtis-Wright Corp., L3 Communications, Raytheon, Rolls-Royce, Sierra Nevada Corp. and Vought Aircraft Industries.
The Navy intends to procure 68 of the aircraft.