Programme costs for the US Navy’s (USN) Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton unmanned maritime surveillance aircraft increased 17% since December 2015, the largest cost growth among aircraft programmes listed in the Pentagon’s Selected Acquisition Report (SAR).
The SAR, released 18 July, summarises the latest estimates of cost, schedule, and performance status. The time period runs from December 2015 through first quarter of fiscal year (FY) 2017.
The Defense Department (DoD) cited a revised estimate to include work scope for modernisation for Triton programmes costs increasing from USD14.4 billion to USD16.8 billion. This revised estimate including work scope for modernisation was a USD1.2 billion boost in costs.
The DoD also cited a USD110.6 million increase in a revised cost estimate due to increases in baseline development in the Milestone C cost estimate and revised escalation indices for the total programmes cost increase. Andrew Hunter, director of the defence-industrial initiatives group and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said in a 21 July email that he was surprised with the Triton cost growth considering it is based on a mature platform in the RQ-4 Global Hawk, also developed by Northrop Grumman.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in its March report to Congress on selected weapons programmes that Triton developmental challenges caused the Navy to delay production start by over three years. In order to accommodate cost and schedule growth, the Navy delayed the start of full-rate production (FRP) from September 2018 to May 2021. GAO said as part of the new schedule, the programme planned to increase the quantity of
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