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Air Platforms

Navy League 2018: MQ-4C Triton nears operational capability, garners international interest

09 April 2018

The US Navy (USN) expects to deploy its first orbit of Northrop Grumman MQ-4 Triton unmanned aircraft systems to Guam by the end of 2018.

A first fully capable 24-hour orbit of Multi-INT MQ-4 Tritons are expected on Guam by 2021. (Northrop Grumman)A first fully capable 24-hour orbit of Multi-INT MQ-4 Tritons are expected on Guam by 2021. (Northrop Grumman)

This ‘baseline early operational capability’ includes two air vehicles that will have a forward operating base in Guam and a main operating base in Jacksonville, Florida. A full capability – with four aircraft that all have a Multi-INT capability (a suite of multi-intelligence collection sensors) – is expected in Guam by 2021, according to Captain Dan Mackin, the USN programme manager for Persistent Maritime Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program Office.

After deploying the initial orbit to Guam, the USN will then field an orbit based out of Naval Air Station Sigonella in Italy for the USN’s 5th Fleet, Capt Mackin said during a 9 April briefing at the annual Navy League Sea-Air-Space conference.

Each fully capable orbit includes four aircraft, a forward-operating base, and a main operating base. An orbit is to provide persistent, 24-hour coverage over a given operating area.

Triton is equipped with an automatic identification system (AIS) used for tracking ships, and it uses this with its sensor suite to find, identify, and track vessels that are not reporting on AIS. The platform, among other things, carries a 360° AN/ZPY-3 Multi-Function Active Sensor (MFAS) X-band active electronically scanned array radar, which has a maritime-surface-search (MSS) mode for tracking maritime targets and Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar (ISAR) mode for classifying ships.

This ‘Multi-INT configuration’ is intended to replace the Lockheed Martin EP-3 Aries II aircraft for most missions, and to form a manned-unmanned team with the Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime multimission aircraft.

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