Navy Orders Second Batch of Triton UAVs
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Navy has ordered a second lot of MQ-4C Triton maritime surveillance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) plus some control equipment.
On May16, Naval Air Systems Command awarded to Northrop Grumman a contract modification of $304 million for Low-Rate Initial Production Lot 2 (LRIP-2), which will include three MQ-4Cs, one main control station, one forward operation control station, trade studies and tooling.
LRIP advanced procurement was approved February 2015. Operational Assessment was completed in February 2016. The full contract for LRIP-1 was awarded on Sept. 27 for three MQ-4Cs, one main operating base and one forward operating base.
The MQ-4C is a long-awaited addition to the Navy’s maritime patrol community that also is modernizing with the Boeing-built P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft in place of the Lockheed P-3C Orion. The P-8A and MQ-4C will be the basis for a family of systems that will patrol the oceans.
The MQ-4C is designed to conduct maritime surveillance for the fleet. Its endurance provides a long-dwell capability to monitor its assigned track. Its multifunction radar, electro-optical cameras, electronic surveillance measures sensor and Automatic Information System will allow it to search, detect and track shipping and other targets, and relay the data back to a ground- or ship-based mission control station or to another maritime patrol aircraft.
The Navy plans to procure 68 MQ-4Cs in addition to two prototypes in the System Development and Demonstration Program. Two operational squadrons together will field five orbits, for a total requirement of 20 Tritons. The remaining 38 aircraft would sustain the program for attrition, training and depot-level maintenance. Although less than 30 MQ-4Cs will be in service at any one time when the system reaches full operational capability, the production run will be able to sustain the orbits as the service life of the aircraft expire over time.