The US Navy’s Northrop Grumman-built MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft system (UAS) has completed its operational assessment (OA), at the NAS Patuxent River in Maryland, US, paving way for a crucial Milestone C decision.

The Milestone C decision will transition the UAS programme into low-rate initial production.

Northrop Grumman Triton programmes vice-president Doug Shaffer said: "Operational assessment for Triton included several flights which exercised the weapon system through operationally relevant scenarios that demonstrated its readiness to meet the navy’s maritime intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance needs.

"Operational assessment for Triton included several flights which exercised the weapon system through operationally relevant scenarios."

"As a result of the flight tests, the programme moves one step closer to a milestone C decision later this spring."

A team of navy personnel from Air Test and Evaluation Squadrons VX-1 and VX-20, Unmanned Patrol Squadron, VUP-19 and Northrop Grumman demonstrated Triton’s functionality and reliability over a course of approximately 60 flight hours.

The team also assessed the imagery generated by Triton’s sensors and validated radar performance at a variety of ranges and altitudes.

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Additionally, the aircraft system’s ability to classify targets and distribution of critical data were also evaluated to ensure its operational effectiveness and suitability testing.

The MQ-4C Triton is a new broad area maritime surveillance (BAMS) UAS, which complements the US Navy’s maritime patrol and reconnaissance force family of systems, delivering signals intelligence (SIGNET), C4ISR and maritime strike capabilities.

Developed by Northrop Grumman, Triton will serve as a forward deployed, land-based, autonomously operated system that provides a persistent maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability using a multi-sensor mission payload.

Image: The US Navy’s MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft system. Photo: courtesy of Northrop Grumman Corp.