PALMDALE, Calif., Sept. 19 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy's MQ-4C Triton unmanned aerial vehicle is entering a new phase of testing after flying from California to Maryland.
Northrop Grumman, prime contractor for the aircraft, said the MQ-4C will be fitted with a sensor suite at Naval Air Station Patuxent River before starting a series of sensor integration flights.
"Now that the aircraft has arrived, we are ready to conduct the next phase of the test program," said Capt. James Hoke, Triton program manager, Naval Air Systems Command. "Triton is one of the Navy's most significant investments in unmanned aircraft systems to date and we look forward to evaluating its capabilities."
Triton, which completed the cross-country flight in 11 hours, is designed as a surveillance aircraft. One of its primary sensors is the AN/ZPY-3, a multi-function active sensor radar that provides a 360-degree field of coverage for ship detection.
The aircraft has a mission capability time of as much as 24 hours and an altitude ceiling of more than 10 miles. It can scan as much as million square nautical miles per mission.
"Triton is the Navy's largest, most advanced unmanned maritime surveillance system to cross such a distance," said Mike Mackey, Triton UAS program director, Northrop Grumman. "The successful flight was the result of a Navy/Northrop Grumman team effort, from finishing a major software package to managing equipment inspections."
Northrop said two company owned Tritons will fly to Patuxent River soon for use in system development and demonstration tests.
The aircraft is expected to gain operational capability status with the Navy in 2017.