Navy’s Triton UAV’s Multi-Intelligence Capabilities on Track to Replace EP-3E
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — A signals intelligence (SIGINT) capability being developed for a future increment of the Navy’s MQ-4C Triton high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) will enable the Navy to retire the EP-3E electronic reconnaissance aircraft on schedule in 2021, a Navy program official said.
“All Tritons ultimately will be deployed in a multi-INT [intelligence] configuration,” Sean Burke, the Navy’s Triton program manager, told reporters April 4 at the Sea-Air-Space Exposition.
The Navy has long spoken of a “family of systems” to replace the signals intelligence capabilities of the EP-3E, but more of that capability is migrating to the MQ-4C than was previously revealed.
The baseline capability for the Triton is Integrated Flight Capability (IFC 3), which includes a multimission radar, electronic surveillance measures, the Automatic Identification System, and an electro-optical/infrared sensor.
The MQ-4C will be deployed in the IFC 3 baseline for its Early Operational Capability deployment, in which two aircraft will be staged to Guam in 2018.
IFC 4 is the next capability, a multi-INT package that will include the Common SIGINT Payload that will enable the MQ-4C to replace the EP-3E. Boeing Argon and Sierra Nevada Corp. are developing the SIGINT systems for the payload.
Burke declined to say whether the Common SIGINT Payload could be installed on the P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.
The IFC 3 configuration went through flight testing in March. Operational assessment of IFC 3 will begin in August by Air Test & Evaluation Squadron One in conjunction with Unmanned Patrol Squadron 19 (VUP-19), the Navy’s first operational Triton squadron.
Three production-standard Tritons were ordered in September under Low-Rate Initial Production Lot 1. VUP-19 will accept delivery of its first Tritons in August and September.
IFC 5 will include the installation of a sense-and-avoid” capability for the Triton to enable it to avoid midair collisions.