The U.S. Navy has revealed that it recently demonstrated two key capabilities for the Triton Unmanned Air System (UAS) programme. The MQ-4C Triton is the navalized version of the Global Hawk designed to perform long-endurance surveillance missions, providing persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) over oceans and littoral areas. It is currently undergoing operational testing. Its role will complement that of the P-8A maritime patrol aircraft, and the ability of the two platforms to communicate in-flight will be essential.
During a flight test on 2nd June, an MQ-4C Triton and P-8A Poseidon successfully exchanged full motion video for the first time inflight via a Common Data Link (CDL), marking another interoperability step for the programme. The test demonstrated Triton’s ability to track a target with its electro-optical/infrared camera to build situational awareness for a distant P-8 aircrew.
Programme officials explain that this capability would enable the P-8 aircrew to become familiar with a contact of interest and surrounding vessels well in advance of the aircraft’s arrival in station. The MQ-4C Triton's ability to perform persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance within a range of 2,000 nautical miles will allow the P-8A aircraft to focus on their core missions.
Last week also marked the completion of Triton’s first heavyweight flight that will expand the craft’s estimated time on station significantly. Triton operated in the 20,000ft altitude band in the heavy weight configuration for the first time and completed all test objectives. A second heavy weight flight on June 14 had Triton operating in the 30,000ft altitude band.
Triton is designed to fly missions of up to 24 hours at altitudes over 10 miles high, allowing the system to monitor two million square miles of ocean and littoral areas at a time. The U.S. Navy is targeting an initial deployment in 2018. Australia also plans to field the Triton alongside its P-8As.